Panther Creek ravines   Jess Riddle
  Mar 18, 2005 15:15 PST 

Panther Creek flows east into the Tugaloo River, part of the Georgia-South
Carolina state line, at approximately 700' elevation and near where the
Brevard Fault crosses the state line. Second growth hemlocks and thickets
of rosebay rhododendron fill most on the narrow ravines that line the
south side of the lower section of the creek, but the rich carbonate rocks
of the Brevard Belt outcrop in three adjacent ravines. Together, the
three coves cover perhaps 50, and range in aspect from northwest to
northeast with the north facing sides generally being far richer. While
most of the slopes exceed 30 degrees, homes once occupied the small flats
in the bottom of two of the coves; however, farming appears restricted to
the bottom of one cove and the flats along Panther Creek that the other
two coves open into. Tuliptrees and Virginia pines that look 50 years old
or younger occupy those areas, but a more mature and diverse forest
prevails in the narrow coves. American beech, white basswood, tuliptree,
northern red oak, green ash, black walnut and bitternut hickory all form
significant portions of the overstory. On the lower north facing slopes,
where sweetgum mixes with the above species, American hornbeam and yellow
buckeye constitute a relatively well defined midstory. Eastern
hophornbean fills much the same rolls higher up the slopes. Paw paw
spicebush remain smaller in stature, but spread over much of the area.
Toothwort and trout lily were the only flowers to come up under them so
far, but later in the year large patches of blue cohosh will cover the
forest floor. Additionally, rock outcrops in the rockiest cove support
walking fern and yellowwood.

The asterisked circumferences below are from a visit to the site about
three years ago. The elm listed below was reported from that visit as a
slippery elm, but closer inspection revealed that identification to be an
error. Slippery elm is common around the edges of the area, but the large
elm in the central cove and the elm just above it are both American.

Cbh Height Species
8'1" 129.4' Ash, Green
6'7" 130.9' Ash, Green
6'11" 134.2' Ash, Green
9'9" 138.2' Ash, Green
9'4" 138.3' Ash, Green
6'4" 119.1' Basswood, White
10'1* 126.2' Basswood, White
8'6" 129.4' Basswood, White
7'5" 132.8' Basswood, White
8'2" 121.5' Beech, American
10'2* 126.9' Beech, American
7'6" 129.4' Beech, American
11'8" 133.0' Elm, American
3'1.5" 74.8' Hophornbean, Eastern
7'2" 133.1' Hickory, Bitternut
8'2" 123.6' Hickory, Mockernut
7'10.5' 144.2' Hickory, Pignut
7'6" 122.2' Oak, Northern Red
8'7.5" 134.8' Oak, Northern Red
9'0" 139.8' Oak, Northern Red
5'10" 121.8' Oak, White
NA 122.1' Oak, White
8'3.5" ~90' Sassafras
NA 129.3' Sweetgum
6'9" 139.5' Sweetgum
10'10" 139.4' Tuliptree
NA 142.1' Tuliptree
NA 150.9 Tuliptree
8'3" 157.6' Tuliptree
5'5" 119.2' Walnut, Black
4'7" 121.1' Walnut, Black
5'8" 125.1' Walnut, Black
5'6.5" 130.7' Walnut, Black

Green ash grows well throughout the area, and I have not heard of any
taller ones in the state. The white basswood are also impressive as a
group for Georgia. The tallest previously reported for the state was
130.8'. The beech at the site are unusual in both size and abundance. No
very tall beech had been located in Georgia, so the 129.4' sets the state
record. The elm is less impressive as an american than as a slippery, but
the tree is still the tallest known of its species in the state and only a
couple of feet short of the tallest found so far in the Congaree. The
hophornbean is in a nearby cove of different character, but is again the
tallest laser measured individual of its species in the state. Bitternut
hickory is generally scarce in the coves of the north Georgia mountains;
however, individuals over 110' are common at this site and the tallest of
them is now the tallest known in the state. The pignut hickory is not the
tallest known in the state. One near the edge of the Kelly Ridge Roadless
Area is a whole 0.5' taller. Pignut hickory is much scarcer at this site
than at other rich sites in the Brevard Fault Zone. As at many sites in
the fault zone, northern red oaks grow well at Panther Creek and reach
their greatest heights for the state. White oaks grow primarily on the
lower part of one of the west facing slopes. The 157.6' figure is the
third best known for a tuliptree so far in Georgia, and two or three other
tuliptrees in the largest cove may reach the low 150's. This area has an
exceptional concentration of tall walnuts, and again the 130.7' is the
tallest found so far in the state. Together, these trees produce a Rucker
Index of 137.84'.

The surrounding fairly acidic looking areas also include widely scattered
impressive trees. Red bud, scarlet oak, and butternut all reach or
approach record heights in the surrounding area. Also, one table
mountain pine on a steep, dwarf rhododendron covered slope will likely
reach 90' and qualify as a state champion.

Jess & Doug Riddle