Cache River Nature Area, IL   beth koebel
  Dec 19, 2006 09:52 PST 


I met Don Bragg at Cache River Nature Area in far southern Illinois last
Friday. Unfortunatly, it was late in the day and we didn't have much
time to see much of the place. We headed straight for the Illinois
cherrybark oak Champ. Don and I got there just about sunset. We
roughly confirmed the height and girth and I was impressed as to the
other trees around the area. I believe that Don was impressed also. I
have sent Ed some photos of the tree to post. The last offical
measurement was in 1991 and was CBH 22.6' hgt 100' and spread 113'.

RE: Cache River Nature Area   beth koebel
  Dec 19, 2006 17:28 PST 

Matthew and all,

Cherrybark oak is very similar to southern red oak. I am not sure if it
was or not but some authors have considered it a variety of southern red
oak (Q. falcata var. pagodifolia Ell.) That info came from a book (Oaks
of North America by Howard Miller and Samuel Lamb) published in 1985 and
on the 2006 Illinois big tree register the cherrybark oak is listed as
Q. pagoda so maybe the name has changed. The common name is from the
bark that resembles black cherry.

Virgina Tech has a page on cherrybark oak it is  


Matthew Hannum wrote:
Cherrybark oak is not a species that I am familiar with, but that is is
a BIG tree! Wow!
Repeatedly frustrated by short winter days   Don Bragg
  Dec 27, 2006 05:36 PST 


Well, over the course of the last couple of weeks, I have seem some
impressive timber, only to be frustrated by the lack of daylight. As
Beth Koebel recently mentioned in one of her posts, we met at the Cache
River State Natural Area in the very southern tip of Illinois on
December 15. Our goal was to find and confirm the numbers on the state
champion cherrybark oak. By the time we got to the trailhead, the sun
had virtually set, and dusk was covering the land.

We marched hard to the oak, passing a lot of interesting (and relatively
tall) timber on the way. We finally got to the big oak after a 3/4 mile
hike, with very little light left. This tree lives up to its
billing--what an oak! It had obviously grown up in the open, with its
impressive crown width and stout trunk surrounded by much smaller and
younger timber. My guess is that it started growing in a pasture or
abandoned field in the mid 1800s, and had a good life. We didn't have
much of a chance to measure the tree--I threw a tape around it quickly,
and got over 7 meters in CBH (I don't remember the exact number). We
also did a limited amount of height measuring, but with such a large,
spreading crown and so little light, I'm sure we didn't get the highest
branch. I think I did get 102 feet at one spot. We didn't measure
crown spread, and even with some recent storm damage, I bet this tree's
reported crown width of 113 feet is at least ballpark.

The Cache River State Natural Area definitely merits further
exploration. There are a number of large cypress and other bottomland
hardwoods visible, and they have an extensive trail network making
access to this site quite easy.
RE: Back to Don   beth koebel
  Dec 29, 2006 17:11 PST 

Bob and Don,

I went back to Cashe River today and had plenty of time to take the
measurements of the Cherrybark Oak. I thought I had the highest point
on the tree but I got 92.5'. Maybe I didn't have the highest point
since Don got 102'. I will try to check this out at a later date. I
got a circ. of 303.5" and ave. crown spread of 92.5'. And yes, I did
check my log book to make sure that I didn't confuse the ave crown with
the height.

During the hike to and back to the tree I also note several tall trees
and many leaves of possible swamp chesnut oak, shumard oak, blackjack
oak, scarlet oak, maple, bald cypress, hickory spp., sweet gum, and
black walnut.

My possible error on the height might be from me being new to the sine
method of measuring or my lack of experience at measuring trees in
general. Of course my lack of experience will get better each and every
time I measure.

Cherrybark Oak   beth koebel
  Dec 30, 2006 10:02 PST 


I just heard from Jay Hayek, the Big Tree coordinator here in Illinois,
he told me that the Cherrybark Oak is the 5th largest tree in the state.
The top one is a Sycamore, the only one over 500 points (525). This is
no surprise to me as I have read that the sycamore and the tulip trees
are the largest trees in the eastern hardwood forests. But I was a
little surprised to see that 3 out of the top five were oaks. I know
that oaks can get to be huge but I didn't think that they would

I think that I will go back and remeasure the baldcypress as it was last
measured in 1991 and it is currently listed at 493 points. Actually, I
was thinking about remeasuring all the champs in Cashe River if they are
still there and I can find them along with the other trees there.

Untill I go back I'll practice the advise that you and Ed have given me
with the trees in my own back yard.

RE: Back to Don   Don Bragg
  Jan 03, 2007 05:44 PST 

Bob and Beth--

I guess this has been worked out...Anyhow, I did revisit the big
cherrybark oak with my family on my way back to Arkansas.
Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to retest the height of that tree
while I was there, as my TruPulse had low batteries that, when coupled
with the brisk morning air, refused to cooperate until it got more
warmed up. By that time, I had moved on to other trees further down the

We did walk the Heron Pond floating boardwalk into that baldcypress
swamp--very nice little walk. Most of the cypress were second-growth,
with a few scattered older culls. One of these older cypress had a top
that reached at least 111 feet in height--I could not get a diameter on
the tree, since it was in several feet of water well off the boardwalk.
Along the trail back to the parking lot, I measured a couple other nice
hardwoods, including a 30.7 inch DBH sweetgum that was at least 118.5
feet tall, and a 26.4 inch DBH yellow-poplar that also was at least
118.5 feet tall. There are a lot of other trees of other species along
that trail that exceed 110 or 120 feet tall, but we needed to get down
the road, and my 5 year old is much less enthusiastic about measuring
trees than I am...

Don Bragg