Creek, NC GRSM
23, 2002 17:35 PDT
What a wonderful day in the Smokies! Mike Davie and I returned
to Baxter Creek today, home of the tallest known grove of trees
in the Eastern US. Average canopy dominant height as measured by
Bob Leverett and I in the late 1990's was around 157'. Looks as
though we need to raise it 5'. Mike and I measured 38 trees, 25
of which were tuliptree. Tuliptree averaged 162.6 feet with four
trees 170' or taller. The tallest tree tickled the clouds at
174.6'. This tree may be taller of course- a return trip is
needed. We did not locate the tree Bob and I measured to ~173'
several years ago. We are not exactly sure what happened.
(Baxter Creek is second-growth for those of you who do not know
Anyway, here are some numbers:
Tuliptree heights only:
(Average of 170+= 172.3')
13 other trees of non-tuliptree species are as follows, and
145' New height record? (10'11" cbh)
135.3' Second tallest in Park I believe.
All trees considered, the stand averages 153.4', though slightly
We also took three height to diameter ratio measurements in the
old field forest below the "super grove". Some records
.8399' diameter @ 115.08'= HDR of 137
.7382' diameter @ 119.35'= HDR of 161.67
.6037' diameter @ 106.5'= HDR of 176.4
Creek, NC GRSM Comments
24, 2002 06:17 PDT
I am humbled
beyond words. Simply humbled beyond words. Well .... not quite.
CONGRATULATIONS!!!! YEEEHA!! We both knew that Baxter Creek
would continue to produce for us, but by that much? Wow!
tuliptree continues to battle it out with Pinus strobus for the
distinction of being the East's tallest species. In absolutes,
no question that white pine rules. In numbers of 150+ footers
though, I have little doubt that "yaller poplar" goes
to the head of the list. Even so, I am amazed at the Baxter
Creek stand, but not only for its tuliptrees. The 106-foot tall,
0.6037-foot diameter sweetgum blows my mind. HOLY MOLY! Lee
Frelich, DID YOU GET THAT RATIO? 176.4! That's wild. Who could
have imagined? I was prepared to see the H/D ratio climb to
between 140 and 145, but not more. The young Cataloochee
sweetgum is only 22.8 inches in circumference! Its a natural
flagpole. Raw sweetgum power.
area is producing unbelievable champions for many species. In
terms of both past or present ENTS measurements in Cataloochee,
White Pine 207.0' 330+
Tuliptree 174.6' 130+
E. Hemlock 169.8' 300+
White Ash 163.?' 120+yrs(?)
White Oak 147.6' ????
Bitternut Hickory 146.4' ????
Cucumber Magnolia 145.0' ????
White Basswood 135.6' ????
I'm sure Will can add others to the
list. But, heck folks, do we see any trends here? Why
Cataloochee? Please bear in mind, we're talking about a
combination of old growth and second growth. Mid-October has to
be a Cataloochee rendezvous for a saturation measurement.
Calling all Ents! Calling all Ents!
ENTS report: Baxter Creek, NC GRSM
27, 2002 15:49 PDT
Regarding the sweetgum you report below (0.6037' diameter @
106.5'= HDR of
I fiddled with a few equations, and assuming a greenwood density
pounds per cubic foot, and modulus of elasticity of 1.2 million
tree has a buckling limit of 266 feet. That is it could be 266
feet tall in
the absence of any wind before it would buckle under its own
maximum possible H:dbh ratio in a completely calm environment
Therefore its height safety factor is about 2.5 (266 / 106.5 or
176). Therefore the tree is sticking to 40% of
its mechanical height
limit to avoid being blown down. Height safety factors of 2.5
for understory hardwood trees in many forests throughout the
This is likely more than you wanted to know, but I recently have
tree growth form analysis is very interesting. In addition, for
time in my life, I now have some way to use what I learned in
grade math classes.
Creek does it again!
19, 2003 17:09 PST
Today I continued sampling along the drainage of Baxter Creek,
Several new record or near record heights were found for several
Baxter Creek can be roughly divided into two areas. The
(upper is still unexplored) is second growth forest
years old. It has the highest concentration of tuliptrees over
160' and more
over 170' than anywhere else in the park (world?). It is a very
cove forest with impressive tree heights and the highest average
height in the southeast (~160'). The lower section is old field
primarily tuliptree and sweetgum. Both areas are impressive but
old-field site is getting more and more interesting. Though only
years old, the average canopy (which is dense and well stocked)
reaches close to 130' for all canopy species. Tuliptree may
average 140' and
has individuals up to at least 150' tall (remember the age!). I
imagine what used to grow there! In fact, the lower section is
only 20-25' shy of the best heights in the middle section, which is
currently the best
in the east.
Here are the day's measurements. Included are some trees growing
lower section but along the stream corridor and appeared to be
MIDDLE SECTION (120-130 years)
N. red oak 13'2" 123.5'
Silverbell 6'3" 128.4' Tallest on record
Silverbell 4'2" 117.6' third tallest known in NC (TN record
Sycamore 9'2" 137.1'
Black birch 5'6" 110.7' third tallest known in NC
Black birch 4.8" 108.7'
Cucumbertree 7'1" 134.3'
Bitternut hickory 7' 154.3' New park record, eastern record?
LOWER SECTION (~60 years old)
Sweetgum 4'8" 133.2' New park record height
Sweetgum 5' 132.6'
Sweetgum 5'2" 129.2'
Sweetgum 4'9" 125.9'
Sweetgum 4'9" 125.3'
Sweetgum 5'5" 121.4'
Black walnut 4'7" 128'
Black locust 8'4" 137.8'
Black birch 4'2" 113.8' Second tallest in park (117.3'
White basswood 5'3" 124'
N. red oak 4'6" 117.6'
Black oak 3'6" 119.6'
Sycamore 5'10" 138.7'
Tuliptree 5'6" 149.8'
Tuliptree 25.2" 108.8671 HDR= 163.05
Tuliptree 27.7" 113.18' HDR= 153.77
Bitternut 4'8" 125.7'
White basswood 7'1" 138.4' NC record, possible park record
N. red oak 9'8" 142.8' Park record height
Black walnut 5' 131.2' NC park record height (TN 135')
I feel there is potential to break 140' for basswood and
sweetgum, 120' for
black birch, 150' for cucumbertree, 175' for tuliptree, and 140'
buckeye with more searching. Today's lower survey, aside from
measurements with Michael Davie and Paul Jost, was the first
intense look at
the overall potential. There is still more to do in the middle
section and a
new terrace I located today by Big Creek that is full of
tuliptree. I haven't even started on the upper section yet. It
some really good red oak and more tuliptree and with luck, some
28, 2003 06:48 PDT
The trip to the Smokies and the Cook Forest rendezvous now
enters the pages of history. Both were wonderful events. Great
trees. Great comradeship. Lots to tell about. I'll be babbling
for at least a week. Maybe two. But first, I was tickled to see
this morning that our membership stands at 86. We welcome our
new members and the return of old ones. Heidi Ricci returned
from vacation and came back on the list after a swing by
Congaree Swamp NM and guess what? Yep. The madman is back. I saw
Joe's address. Welcome back aboard, Joe.
I'll save the Cook Forest rendezvous for my next e-mail and deal
with news from the Smokies on this one. On April 21st, the team
of Will Blozan, Jess Riddle, John Knuerr, and yours truly headed
straight for Baxter Creek - home to a towering grove of tulip
trees that we frequently speak about. I hadn't seen Baxter Creek
since 1998 and the first thing I noticed was that the trees had
grown visibly larger in diameter. With four of us searching,
tall tree discoveries/confirmations were destined to pile up and
pile up they did.
The Baxter Creek trees form what is probably the tallest canopy
hardwood forest in eastern America. It acquired that distinction
in 1998 based on several trips by Will Blozan and one by Will
and myself. I think Baxter Creek has since widened the gap. I
should point out that Will Blozan was originally attracted to
the grove because of the towering tulip trees, but as a result
of this trip, we're starting to appreciate the diversity of the
cove. Here are some examples. Will confirmed a northern red oak
to 142, a cucumber magnolia to 143, an eastern hemlock to 149 (I
may have confused this one with a tree on Cataloochee), a white
ash to 151, and a bitternut hickory to 153 feet (I think that
was what it is). A second white ash just exceeded 140 feet.
However, as to be expected, the tulip trees of Baxter Creek
steal the show. We confirmed 4 new ones over 170 feet in height!
Will got 3 and I got one of them. The total number of
170-footers in Baxter now stands at 11 with probably 2 or 3
above 170 left to find and with the probability of a few trees
eventually exceeding 180.
We confirmed the tallest tree in Baxter to 176.7 feet, which is
a new ENTS record for an eastern hardwood of any species. It is
a relatvely slender tree perhaps no more than 110 years of age.
The place is truly extraordinary and what is especially exciting
is that the Baxter Creek trees have plenty of growing left to
do. It is THE stand to watch.
I took a measurement of basal area for Baxter Creek and numbers
ranging from 160 to 200 square feet per acre are the norm.
However, since the trees are relatively young, diameters are not
overwhelming. The diameters we saw range up to 50 inches, but
most are 30 to 40. In time the cove will produce a few 60-inch
diamter trees. The Rucker site index is presently probably
around 145 and destined to climb to the high 140s or perhaps
150. Anyway you cut it, Baxter Creek is incredible.
In an adjacent cove we revisited the 163+ foot white ash that
Will nad Paul Jost measured. Slender sycamores there are above
150. So if we were to take the general Big Creek area in the
vicinity of Baxter Creek, we can certainly get a Rucker Index of
over 150. As previously mentioned, this is the place to watch.
On April 22nd, Will took us to Cataloochee and we made a
bee-line for the famous Boogerman pine. Gary Beluzo and family
joined is and using many instruments and sets of eyes, we
proclaim the Boogerman to be 186.0 feet tall. I confess that
Will's calculated figure of 185.9 is more probable, if we
believe the upward tuurning of the limb has ceased. Calculated
heights of 185.5 to 186.6 were obtained. Not bad. Hemlocks and
tulip trees in the area of the Boogerman are over 150 feet. On
the way to the Boogerman tree, I confirmed another white pine to
just a hair over 170 feet.
A trip to Rough Creek and into moderately heavy rhododendron
allowed us to confirm several giant hemlocks including one Will
had measured years ago using pre-laser equipment. Our current
figure is between 160 and 161. The Rough Creek hemlocks are
bulky with circumferences ranging from 11 to 14 feet. One dying
giant measured 14.7 feet around and its dead top stands at
slightly over 140 feet. Its volume may surpass 1300 cubic feet.
A trip to remeasure the Hoglan Branck pine, which BTW is a devil
to measure, produced 176.9 feet and a girth of around 10.7 feet
if I remember correctly. The Hoglan tree stands as the second
tallest we measured on the Smoky Mountain venture.
We're a long way from getting the measure of what the Great
Smokies grow, once grew, and can grow in the future. The answers
will have to await many more visits and a more disciplined study
protocal. Fortunately with our 3-year study permit from the Park
Service, we will be able to pursue a sustained, organized
research effort. The trip has certainly energized me in that
I'll close with the following observations.
The Smokies may well be THE temperate deciduous-dominated
rain-forest against which all others are compared. That is
sometimes asserted by reputable scientists and I think with
relatively good reason. Arthur Stupka, former Park naturalist,
once said that vegetation is to the Smokies as geysers are to
Yellowstone and waterfalls are to Yosemite. I think that is an
accurate characterization. I know of no serious naturalist who
after a prolonged visit fails to recognize the Smokies as the
superlative place that it is. What is especially exciting is
that the botanical treasures of the Smokies have yet to be all
identified. The species count continues to rise.
The Smokies superbly illustrate how nature creates immensely
complicated webs of life, tests many designs, and in the process
produces resilient ecosystems that endure for millennia. Places
like the Smokies cannot be meaningfully compared to the simple
systems that humans create to favor a few species for commercial
use and this is a lesson that has to be continually relearned.
Every generation seems to have to make the discovery on its own.
If nothing else, we need places like the Smokies to allow us to
keep our bearings. John, Rob, and I observed one heck of a lot
of forest on our trek to the Smokies and back via Pennsylvania
and the Smokies continue to illustrate best the value of
retaining large blocks of unmanaged forest in the East. It isn't
about scenery, historical reference, or even champion trees. It
IS about biodiversity. Real biodiversity. The autopoeitic forest
system that Professor Gary Beluzo talks about. Such
self-maintaining systems are just not possible in
human-saturated areas or in multi-use areas manipulated for a
few species to insure that every hunter can bag his/her trophy,
and in the process, literally destroy the forest understory.
I sympathize with people who thirst for natural areas in close
proximity to their homes - little wetlands, stately woodlands,
scenic spots. However, highly fragmented natural areas on the
fringes of urban America should not , will not, cannot take the
place of large intact reserves. It is only in the latter where
we see Mother Nature at her finest and I needed this past trip
to remind me that the Smokies remain as one of Mother Nature's
grandest creations which we in the year 2003 can visit and
enjoy. I feel a deep debt to all those throughtful souls who, in
the 1930s had the vision to fight for the creation of the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park. Had they settled for less, today
we would not have the jewel of the eastern national parks to
enjoy, study, and keep us somewhat aware that nature is still
the grand designer.
more Baxter Creek
17, 2003 07:43 PDT
Yesterday I returned to Baxter Creek (Cataloochee District,
Mountains National Park, NC) to remeasure the tallest known
explore some new sections of the drainage. The day was at times
seemed to have 400% humidity. I told a hiker that I wish it
would rain so I
would be drier (he agreed)! Immense amounts of mosquitoes
"swam" their way
to me and apparently hadn't "eaten" in days- thus, I
gave some blood
yesterday! Whatever liquid volume the mosquitoes drained from me
replaced by copious injections from shoulder-high stinging
slick, tallus and mucky conditions propelled me on some
"Burl Belly Flops"
and "Bust-m-ass Slides" that even the Master Bob
Leverett would be impressed
with. Conditions were not ideal by any means.
However, I was able to find a few new trees and remeasure some
finds. I also found a new species (to the creek) of tree in
yesterday. Common paw-paw, Asimina triloba. This is not a
typical nor common
species for the area and further indicates the richness of the
Baxter Creek. So far, I have found (at least) 54 species of
species of shrubs, and 5 species of lianas in Baxter Creek.
are not absolute. More will be found with a sharp eye and more
As it stands, Baxter Creek is home to well over 50% of all the
trees and shrubs known in the Park. Walking fern and climbing
common which I believe are also rich soil indicators. Polypody
often be found as epiphytes in aerial moss mats on limbs or
forks of trees.
There is hardly a surface that is not covered in something with
(or stinging hairs!). Green is the color of the grove from top
Ok! As of yesterday Baxter Creek contains at least 14 tuliptrees
tall. All are in an area of just a few dozen acres. It contains
known individual (177.4') and nearly two-thirds of ALL the
(ENTS Certified) to reach 170'in the entire East (although, to
be fair, we
haven't heard from Jess Riddle in a while about his summer
a few years this number may double as many trees are now in the
This is young forest (ca. 130-140 years) so without any storm
hydraulic limitations the majority of upper 160' trees should
the 170' class. Will they reach 180'? With good conditions, in
5-7 years I'd
have to say we will have the first. Ironically, the tallest tree
is also the
easiest tree to measured as it grows only 10 feet from the trail
highest point is visible from the trail as well. This tree is SO
easy to get
to and monitor for growth that to ask for a better scenario
On to the trees:
Previously surveyed section:
Species Girth Height
Tuliptree ~11' 177.4' Unnamed tree; tallest in grove/East/World?
Black birch ~5' 113.1' Previously ~110.7. Second tree over 113
Yellow buckeye 6'11" 140.7' Tallest in Baxter (I think),
one of just 3 over
New section south of trail switchback:
Species Girth Height
Tuliptree 9'11" 153.9' Dozens more in this height class; I
Tuliptree 8'5" 162.5'
Tuliptree 12'5" 166.1' Probably taller, massive tree for
Tuliptree 7'2" 168.8' May be over 170'. Only had one shot
on one side of
Tuliptree 10'3" 174.3' Another for the 170' Club (#14 in
in open-- will get massive!
White basswood 7'3" 140.9' Joins the elite 140' Club for
which there are
only 8 trees known.
Virginia creeper ~10" 127' In 130' hemlock. Started to
heights- could be useful info?
Unnamed stream east of Baxter:
Sweetgum 5'6" 133.4' Perfect site for this tree- could be
Sycamore 7'4" 155' Previously measured to ~153.
Sycamore 8'3" 158.6' New tree, second tallest known, SORRY
I went to the 149' basswood to remeasure it but the understory
was way to
thick and the laser bounces off the mosquitoes made it seem
short anyway! It
has very luxurious growth and I hope it will reach 150' after
section of Baxter Creek
12, 2003 14:57 PST
Ed Coyle and I explored a new area of Baxter Creek, GRSM (NC),
District on Sunday. It was an upper prong of the southwest fork
trail to Mt Sterling.
The structure was more varied than the lower flats in that more
trees were present. Large, old-growth hemlock (14'), sugar maple
basswood (12'6") and tuliptree (16'2") were scattered
about but not common.
Most trees were older second-growth approximately 120-140 years
The definite finds of the day were new records or near record
black birch, mountain silverbell, sugar maple and red maple.
remeasured three trees in the lower flats. Ed was very helpful
as a base
spotter and thus I was able to get very good shots from long
distances to a
known basal height (I know, Colby and Howard, I am going to get
We remeasured a black birch I had at 113'. We were able to get
We then remeasured the height champion silverbell. I had ~128',
130.2' First ever over 130' (for a 1/2 hour).
We remeasured the height record tuliptree to 177.2', slightly
less than this
spring with Bob (177.6', I think).
On to the new section:
The first tree we hit was a tuliptree 9'1" and 166.8' tall.
We were soon
distracted by a picture-perfect red maple. Ed had never seen one
so big! We
measured the girth to 10'5" and the height an astonishing
confirmed this height (within 3/100's a foot) from a separate
another nice tuliptree 9'3" x 162.1 feet. And a bean pole
white ash 4'8" x
148.22'. But what really caught our eyes was a skinny silverbell
although only 4'2" in girth, soared to a new record height
We continued to pass through forests of tall tulips over 150',
140' and yellow buckeyes over 120'. Tuliptrees 150'+ were common
but no 170'
trees were to be found. Then we entered a wide flat with big
and bitternuts. The first sugar maple we measured was 10'5"
x 138.3'. Not
bad. Then the MAMA showed up! An absolutely perfectly formed
maple with a moss covered base and a beautiful, ascending crown.
I went way
upslope to see the top and shot it from three sites and got
Still upslope, I measured the gorgeous crown of a massive
bitternut that was
9' x 150.5'. Another tulip nearby was 8.7" x 163.3'. Also,
a 10'5" hemlock
stood at 148.2'. I have not yet been able to locate a hemlock
over 150' on
Baxter Creek, mainly because it is primarily second-growth
forest. The relic
older hemlocks are beautiful, but not huge or exceptionally
On the way out we measured three more tulips over 160' and one
over 170' in
the lower section which may already be documented. If not, it
will be #16
over 170'. We also measured an extremely slim sycamore that had
a HD/R of
169.85 (.6791' x 115.347'). What do you think of that, Bob!
Here are the raw numbers, less those mentioned above:
Old field section
Black locust 4'9" x 128.95'
Hemlock 9'8" x 143.3'
Hemlock n/a 137.37'
Basswood 9'6" 135'
Buckeye n/a 135'
Tuliptree n/a 162.56'
Tuliptree n/a 161'
Tuliptree n/a 161.87'
Tuliptree n/a 161.2'
Tuliptree 14'4" x 168.73' Largest second-growth tree in
Upper southwest prong
Tuliptree 9'3" 153.8'
Tuliptree 10'3" 158.8'
Tuliptree 11'8" 159.39'
Bitternut 7'9" 132.31'
Sugar maple 9'8" 129.24'
Hemlock n/a 131.35'
Fraser magnolia 8'2" 110.04'
White ash 10'4" 139.49'
I will let you all know when I post some photos on the Webshots
a bad day, and Ed's first Smokies tree hunt!
Will and Ed
New section of Baxter Creek
12, 2003 18:06 PST
I believe Baxter has two white ash over 150', maybe three.
Baxter Creek 140' plus club:
white ash 153'
yellow buckeye 140'
sugar maple 144'
red maple 142'
red oak 142'
black locust 140'
I may be forgetting one more. Sweetgum will make it in a few
years, and maybe
time, no posts...
16, 2004 10:21 PDT
I want to get some trip reports out as I know many of you are
news. I have not been out much lately and have been super busy
with work and
family. Fortunately, some of my best excursions lately have been
related, namely the Joyce Kilmer and Kelsey Tract old-growth
and last week a trip to Mt. LeConte in the Smokies to collect
4/18/04 Baxter Creek, Big Creek, NC, GSMNP (Bob, this trip was
A short trip into the unequalled Baxter Creek to revisit one
particular that Paul Jost and I measured several years ago. I
would be over 170' by now. It was, and so was a nearby tree,
the total tuliptrees over 170' on Baxter Creek alone to at least
With 2-3 more years of growth, and with a concerted measuring
number could more than double. I would not be surprised if there
trees right now over 170'. I am anxious to see what the height
(177.3') does this year.
5' X 114.6'
9'8" X 131.5
9'5" X 172.7' and 172.9' Two shots from widely different
~12' X 172' Tree on original survey <170'.
6'7" X 128.4'
Northern red oak
11'4" X 147' New GRSM record height! Perfect tree, still
That's all for now. The tree hunting season has basically closed
in with the
spring canopy. I may try to do some volume climbs before it gets
too hot and
buggy. I will be in northern Ohio the end of next week so I hope
to at least
confirm the giant cottonwoods I saw near Detroit, Michigan while
I am there.
I'm sure I will let you all know...eventually...;)
President, Eastern Native Tree Society
ISA Certified Arborist