14, 2004 13:52 PDT
Over the past few weeks, I've passed through several varied
forests in the
Southern Appalachians, but have seen relatively few noteworthy
trees. Where I'm living and the season of the year have prompted
focus much of my time on the spruce forests occurring at high
in the Smokies, which, fortunately for me, are not as close to
impenetrable as some indications warned. On the south side of
Dome, including the headwaters of the Left Fork Deep Creek most
to follow the pattern of: red spruce and yellow birch dominating
south facing coves with a mountain maple understory above 5200';
birch and yellow buckeye over a dense herbaceous layer over
low-gradient streams; hemlock and dense rosebay rhododendron
slightly higher gradient streams; and spruce over dense
the slopes and small spur ridges. The major ridge tops appear
consistent, and vary from open spruce-yellow birch-mountain ash
heath balds. In the same area, the upper section of Deep Creek
follows a somewhat different pattern. The rarity of hemlock
along the stream is striking; yellow birch, commonly up to three
constitutes the vast majority of the canopy on the lower slopes
stream, and rhododendron remains surprisingly far up the slopes.
herbaceous layer takes advantage of the low shrub densities
stream where the birch mixes with yellow buckeye and small
patches of dead
beech provide higher light access. The small, south-facing coves
onto the stream around 4500' support considerably more diverse
significant sugar maple and serviceberry. Red spruce with a few
relatively large (3.5' dbh) hemlocks mixed in dominate the
On the other side of the main divide of the Smokies, Walker Camp
initially drains southwest from the large ridge that connects
LeConte (6593') to the main divide, and supports forests of the
general type as found on the other side of the side of the
divide but with
some significant differences. Again, yellow birch and red spruce
two tiered canopy, and mountain maple is the primary stream-side
understory species; however, yellow buckeye is essentially
4500' and young fraser fir forming a think understory above
Downstream from the fir understory, rhododendron, primarily
cloaks part of the slopes right down to the waters edge in
impenetrable tangles and precludes the development of an
The areas without rhododendron are no more easily traversed
are primarily steeply inclined slopes of minimally weathered
The many bleached, dead spruce trunks standing on the upper
presumably the result of more intense acid deposition than
occurs on the
other side of the divide, adds to the austere appearance of the
The red spruce in this area between Mount LeConte and Clingmans
commonly reach sizes up to 9' cbh and 120' tall, but larger
appear widely scattered, some of which are much larger. Off
through the area is generally least difficult along the middle
drainage; unfortunately, those routes may bias searches away
from the best
spruce habitat since red spruce reaching relatively large sizes
and occurring infrequently on stream banks suggests the
midslopes could be the best habitat for spruce in the area.
generalizations probably cannot be extended to the rest of the
spruce forest of the Greenbrier section of the park remains
unexplored and the Ravens Fork watershed provides some
Ravons Fork drains a high, several thousand acre, plateau-like
is home to both of the current national co-champion red spruce
as well as
several of the parks past record spruces. This high potential
remains largely unknown since trails don't quite encircle the
area and no
trails lead into the interior of the area.
The south fork of Pole Road Creek flows northeast through a
bowl-like basin on the south side of Clingmans Dome on the NC
side of the
Smokies. An uncut forest of tuliptree and hemlock with
understory lines the stream from its mouth at 3040' up to
3600'. Both over story species reach four feet dbh occasionally,
do not hint that one of the largest known hemlocks stands a
away on the main stem of the creek. Higher up the drainage, an
many silverbell, small hemlocks, dead beech, and several large
cucumbertrees leads into northern hardwood type forest dominated
buckeye, sugar maple, and silverbell, which gives way to more
forest on the upper slopes. The upper parts of the main stem of
Creek support generally similar forest. The effects of the
quite evident in this area with some patches of hemlock showing
COWEETA HYDROLOGIC LABRATORY MACON Co., NC
Scarlet Oak 8'3" x ~113'
Scarlet Oak 7'0" x 119.1' Second growth, well-formed
Black Birch 8'3" x 95.8'
White Ash 9'9" x 119.5
Pin Cherry 5'11" x 60.6'+
Pin Cherry 5'2" x 81.4'
LEFT FORK DEEP CREEK HEADWATERS GSMNP, NC
Red Spruce 12'2" Near top of Fork Ridge
Red Spruce 10'5" x 128.4'
Red Spruce 10'7" x 138.2'
GRASSY BRANCH JOYCE KILMER WILDERNESS
Northern Red Oak 13'3" x ~139'
UPPER DEEP CREEK GSMNP, NC
Birch, yellow 10'5" x 87.0' Columnar
Cherry, Black 12'3.5" x ~90'
Cherry, Black 12'4.5"
Maple, Red 10'7" x ~125'
Serviceberry 5'3" x ~71'
Serviceberry 4'3" x 89.5'+ Straight
Serviceberry 5'9" x 100.3' New state champ
Spruce, Red 11'7" x ~120'
FLINT ROCK BRANCH GSMNP, TN
White Ash 8'6.5" x 135.6' second growth, measured by
Tuliptree to low 150's in area
JOE BRANCH RABUN CO., GA
Cucumbertree 5'0" x124.4' Third tallest known in state
White Oak 8'0" x ~128' 2nd tallest known forest grown in
INDIAN CREEK GRAHAM CO., NC
Sycamore 16'11" x ~140'
NOLAND DIVIDE TRAIL GSMNP, NC
Mountain-Ash 1'11.5" x 54.8'
POLE ROAD CREEK
Yellow Buckeye 10'11" x 123.9'
Cucumbertree 8'10" x 127.3'
Cucumbertree 12'2" x 135.0'
Cucumbertree 11'4" x 139.6'
MOUNT KEPHART GSMNP, TN
Fraser Fir 4'6.5" x 39.1' (50.2' dead top)
Fraser Fir 4'1" x 48.1'
WALKER CAMP PRONG GSMNP, TN
Yellow Birch 13'10" x ~80' massive,
RUFUS MORGAN FALLS MACON Co., NC
Black Birch 5'7.5" x 109.1'
WAYAH BALD MACON Co., NC
American Chestnut 4'1"