West Prong of Sag Branch 9/8/02    Will Blozan
   Sep 11, 2002 16:50 PDT 
ENTS report 9/11/02

Myself and Brian Newsome, an Asheville arborist, explored the west prong of Sag Branch in Cataloochee, GRSM. Our goal was to reach and remeasure the Sag Branch Pine which several seasons ago was measured to 181.5 feet tall. We did not reach the tree for lack of time but were able to spend concentrated time in a fantastic hemlock and tuliptree grove. In fact, we only explored a few hundred yards of the branch and an adjacent cove.

Most of the hemlocks were above 150' tall with the tallest 159.4'. While measuring a dense grove of hemlock I looked to the west and spotted a huge tuliptree crown and massive trunk. I roughed the height to over 160' and figured the tree was in excess of 5 feet in diameter (I was standing by a fallen tuliptree over 16' in girth). After finishing with the hemlocks we decided to check the tree out. I stated it would be at least a 16 foot tree, then an 18' tree, then...Holy Moly! It was 22'5" in girth! I spent 1.5 hours measuring the tree, and came up with 164.4 feet in height and an average crown spread of 101.5 feet. This totals 459 AF big tree points and secures the title of the second largest tuliptree by point rating in the Smokies, second only to Tennessee's Greenbrier Giant standing at 466 points. Using the rangefinder blocks to estimate diameter aloft and calculate volume, Bob Leverett and I estimate the volume to be approaching 2900 ft3. This tree is very easy to get to and will be climbed and measured for volume. Perhaps there would be interest in a volume competition between TN and NC!

Diameters on the big tulip (unnamed) were as follows:
Lowest point above roots: 25.1"
4.5 feet above midslope: 22.45'
28" above dbh" 20.41'
72.38' above midslope: 16.5'
84.11' above midslope: 13.6'
102.66' above midslope: 11.73'

Limbs were massive, and crown spread in one direction was 113'.

Other notable trees in the same grove:
Northern red oak 8'3" x 129.5'
Chestnut oak 12'5" x 130.1'
Tuliptree 10'1" x 154.9'
Hemlock 11'3" x 143.4'
Hemlock 10'7" x 155.4'
Hemlock 11.4" x 155.2'
Hemlock 10'8" x 149.7'
Hemlock 10'11" x 159.4'
Hemlock 12'5" x 147.6'
Hemlock 9'8" x 151.1'
Hemlock 12'8" x 150.8'
Hemlock 10'7" x 151.3'
Hemlock 11'3" x 150.7'
Hemlock 11'8" x 142.4'
Hemlock 12' x 149'

These numbers once again confirm that 150 hemlocks are common, but above 155 infrequent, and above 160', scarce. Most tuliptrees were around 140' tall, but I was admittedly distracted by the hemlocks which were in very good form and vigor.

On the way out we stopped and looked at the Boogerman Pine. The 6X optics on my rangefinder revealed at least a 6" candle of new growth this year. Its current height should be right around 186 feet now. There is still much more to survey on Sag Branch. Dale, can you come help? Only a few hour day trip from my house!

Will Blozan
Sag Branch Tuliptree    Will Blozan
   Sep 11, 2002 16:03 PDT 
ENTS and Kris,

As far as I know, the new tuliptree found on Sag Branch last weekend is the only tree of its size class (22'+) that has been discovered in many, many years. I think that all the big trees like the Greenbrier Giant, Mill Creek Monster, and those on Kalanu Prong, Albright Grove, and Collins Creek have been in Park records for decades. Would you agree, Kris? I know of no records of this tree.

Re: West Prong of Sag Branch 9/8/02    Robert Van Pelt
   Sep 11, 2002 20:05 PDT 
Will, et al.,
Sweet find!

The fact that you will be climbing to document the tree's greatness is awesome! While in Victoria we climbed and mapped in three dimensions every branch on nine giant Eucalyptus regnans. These included trees over 300' tall and 3m in diameter. On these trees, 92% of the total wood volume was in the main trunk, 6% in large branches, and 2% in small branches and twigs (this last category was subsampled to obtain the total). The architecture of the Liriodendron will probably reduce the trunk volume to 80-85% of the total. Perhaps even less on trees with huge crowns. I can send you our branch mapping protocol if interested.

Six feet thick at 40' up... of all eastern trees, only the Senator can also make such a claim!!!

Re: West Prong of Sag Branch 9/8/02    Robert Leverett
   Sep 12, 2002 04:13 PDT 
Bob, Will, et al.:

    If we assume 15% of the volume of limbs for the Sag Branch Collossus,
which seems more reasonable, then the volume becomes 3,024 cubic feet. This
is more in keeping with our calculations for the Greenbrier Giant and Mill
Creek Monster. We can now claim 4 trees measured to over 3,000 cubic feet in
the East: the three Smoky Mountain Tuliptrees and the Senator Tree in
Florida. I assume that there are other bald cypresses with will surpass
3,000 cubic feet in the East.

    A most worthy ENTS project/mission would be to scout out and document
the 3,000-cubic footers in the East. Sponsorship by American Forests would
be most appropriate. It would be an opportunity for them to cease the
initiative in breaking the strangler hold that their own creation, The
National Register of Big Trees, has on the documentation of our largest and
most charismatic of plant species. While the Register can continue to serve
a useful function, its dominance should be relegated to a page in history.

    In the West, American Forests should adopt the trees of each species
that Bob Van Pelt measures as the most voluminous for their species - no
questions asked. After all, listing a tree of smaller volume as the largest
of its species simply makes no sense when you have the world's best tree
measurers to arbitrate disputes. I'm sure our friend Karen Fedor at American
Forests agrees, but she may have her hands tied by people above her. If so,
it is time for them to wake up. For those who have recently joined our list,
I will attempt explain the big tree competition mess in a future e-mail.