Sosbee Cove, GA
  Jul 13, 2005 19:31 PDT 

       Ridges jutting north from Slaughter Mountain (4315') in northeast
Georgia outline Sosbee Cove, which contains what is likely Georgia's most
accessible rich cove forest. A short loop trail spreads out into the
cove from a pull-off on state highway 180, which slices through the cove
at 3200' elevation. The slopes immediately below the road support
simultaneously the most and least disturbed forest in the cove; a couple
remnant buckeyes and several remnant tuliptrees with crinkly crowns stand
amidst a tall forest of tuliptrees that appear slightly over a hundred
years old, somewhat older than typically encountered in north Georgia.
Cutting directly through the center of that forest, a power line
right-of-way completely changes the complexion of the forest. Within the
right-of-way, many species of herbaceous plants and vines form a head
high tangle. Adjacent areas that can still be considered forest floor
support similarly diverse communities dominated by sweet cicely, meadow
rue, blue cohosh and false solomon's seal. Spicebush intervene between
those species and the tuliptree dominated canopy that bitternut hickory,
black cherry, white basswood, northern red oak, yellow buckeye, and even
a black walnut complete.

Three state champion trees now grow in the cove. Curiously, the heights
listed for the more recent nominations, a northern red oak and a
tuliptree, appear quite accurate, but the girths were overstated. The
tuliptree's bell-bottomed base and the substantial slopes that all of the
tree grow on probably account for most of the discrepancies in
circumference. As of July 2nd, the northern red oak was 14'6" cbh, and
an earlier winter measurement put the trees height at 124.0'.
Measurements taken at the same times recorded the tuliptree at 17'10" cbh
and 153.2' tall. The third record tree in the cove, a yellow buckeye,
has held it's title the longest thanks in large part to a 15'6"
circumference. Four measurements on July 2nd, probably representing
multiple tops, gave heights ranging from 127.2' to 129.4'. The tree's
broad dome of foliage could have easily hidden a slightly higher top.
By the ranking system proposed a few months ago based on a species known
potential within a geographic area, the northern red oak would receive
182 points (percent), the tuliptree 184 points, and the buckeye 189
points. Those numbers are scaled against maximum dimensions verified by
ENTS within Georgia. Comparing the same trees against largest known
dimensions for the species anywhere yields 148 pts, 156 pts, and 173 pts
respectively. The latter numbers help to explain why the yellow buckeye
is probably the most impressive of the three.

Some quick, steep angle measurements yielded the following heights for
other tuliptrees in the cove: 153.7', 144.2', 153.4', and 153.4'. The
heights for the first and last trees are almost certainly not to their
actual tops.

Jess Riddle