Last Sunday I
led a hike into the superlative old-growth forests of the
Greenbrier section of the Great Smokies for the Smoky Mountain
Wildflower Pilgrimage. My intent was to revisit some of the
giant tuliptrees that grow on Kalanu Prong, a tributary of False
Gap Prong. One super rich section of this area is known as “Boat
Gunnel Flats”, and has historically (until ENTS came along ;)
harbored some of the largest specimens of several species know
in the Smokies.
At the end of
an unofficial trail stands a huge tuliptree Jess Riddle and I
named the Trails End Tulip. In 2006 we reticled the first 87’ of
trunk to an estimated volume of 2,522 ft3. This specimen has the
second largest trunk for the species I have yet seen. At 22’3”
in girth and 157 feet tall it is high on my list for a crown
mapping and volume climb. Total tree volume would be in the low
3,000 ft3 range, far less than the huge Sag Branch Tuliptree,
but likely the second largest tree in the Smokies.
targeted tree was the Greenbrier Giant tuliptree that has one of
the largest forest-grown girths at 22’11” feet. The immense
crown of this huge tree doesn’t have the loft of the other
giants and tops out at a mere 146’. The main trunk, though
larger at BH than the Trails End Tulip, is shorter, more
tapered, and thus would not scale the same volume. A reticle
modeling in 2006 indicated the main trunk contained 2,200 ft3. I
estimate the tree to contain around 3,000 ft3 of wood.
up stream to find another 21’+ tuliptree and soon got distracted
by a gorgeous red maple. I lasered the maple from below to ~130
feet and went upslope to perform the full ENTS sine method for
the height. I measured the tree to 131.7’ and on the way down
spotted a striped maple with a lofty crown. Shooting straight up
it was definitely going to exceed 70’. With few known
individuals over 70 feet I backed up for the height routine.
This 8.2” diameter tree soared to a new species height record of
upstream again we spotted a nice tuliptree that I had not
measured before. It was a “new” 20 footer at 20.6’ girth. We did
not have time to visit the other huge tree. Regardless, I know
of no other cove with at 4 tuliptrees over 20’ in girth that are
within 1/3 of a mile from each other.
is much more to discover in this area. Unfortunately, despite a
beetle release, the entirety of the canopy hemlocks I saw was
dead. I had the group search for predator beetles on the
surviving smaller trees; none were found.
Eastern Native Tree Society
Appalachian Arborists, Inc.
One more tree of note from the trip I forgot to mention. Near
Giant is a massive black cherry 14'2" X 118.7' tall.