Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest, IN Bob Leverett
July 10, 2009


    Monica and I are on the road and I thought I'd summarize  
yesterday's visit to Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest. First, it is a  
beautiful old growth woodland with moderate diversity. White and red  
oak, beech,black walnut, hackberry, tuliptree, sugar maple, and  
white ash are in abundance. Other species such as black cherry and  
sycamore are present.
      The black walnuts are handsome trees, but not as tall as  
advertised. No surprises there. I measured them to about 118 feet. I  
got tuliptree and red oaks into the high 120s and low 130s. However,  
I do believe I may have found the tallest tree in Pioneer. I  
measured a sycamore to 145.0 feet height and 13.4 feet girth. It is  
off trail. I saw nothing else to compete with it.
      Man, typing on this iPhone while riding is making me sick.  
Signing off.


Bob Leverett (July 14, 2009) writes:


I'm in the process of sorting through the many, many images that I took on Monica's and my epic trip to Durango,CO and environs. On our return journey back to western Massachusetts, we stopped at several iconic woodlands including Beall Woods, IL; Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest, IN; Davey's Woods, OH; Johnson Woods, OH; and Plateau Mountain in New York's incomparable Catskill Park. The primary  objective of our stopovers was to study surviving old growth ecosystems, and of course, for me to measure big trees. An ancillary, but very important, objective of the stopovers was to observe how other states handle their special forest sites. Let me say a few words about that mission.
Over the last 25 years,  I've spent a lot of time examining forest sites in many eastern states and have formed some pretty concrete opinions about which states are doing a good job and which ones aren't. I will share, in due course, my conclusions with interested parties here in Massachusetts. In particular, I plan to speak at length on the subject of real forest protection at this fall's Forest Summit Lecture Series at Holyoke Community College. My conclusion at this point is that we in Massachusetts have a longer way to go to implement programs with teeth than many state officials may believe. The Robinson State Park debacle and botched logging jobs in the Berkshires point to big gaps in our protection methodology. There is a distinct difference between conceptualizing, broad planning, and actual on-the-ground implementation. I observed plenty of the actual implementation on my trip and was duly impressed. But, that is also another story.
The attached images are from Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest.  The four images of individual trees were taken with my beautiful wife Monica in the photos for proportion. The images speak to the aesthetics of this delightful eastern woodland. I went off trail several times to measure tall trees and unknowingly measured the same American sycamore that Will Blozan measured years before. The sycamore was likely the tallest tree in Pioneer Mothers when Will measured it and it continues to be now. At 145 feet in height, give or take a half a foot, the sycamore is not typical of Pioneer Mothers tall trees. It is a good 10 feet taller than competitors. Heights of 130 to 135 feet are more typical of the best those woodlands have to offer.
Girths of the bigger trees in Pioneer Mothers are in the 10 to 14-foot circumference range, with one or two larger ones. However, many of the largest trees are now fading. Their time has come to surrender their hallowed place in the canopy and allow some of the aspiring younger trees to fill their long held patriarchal-matriarchal roles. However, Pioneer Mothers is an old growth forest, which means multi-aged for the central mixed-mesophytic forest and is in accord with Dr. Lee Frelich's definition of old growth. Consequently, there is a wide age distribution within Pioneer Mothers. This seems to be a difficult concept for timber community specialists to grasp. Traditionally, they have cast old growth forests as geriatric woodlands in desperate need of their logging services. Were it not for the corp of enlightened forest researchers and protectors, I fear the timber community would have long ago gotten its way. But that is another story.
In terms of diversity of tree species, Pioneer Mothers is on a par with the southern New England woodlands, if slightly more diverse. However, my buddy Will Blozan has a better feel for the overall diversity of Pioneer Mothers. Will is extremely talented at making quick identifications of many species. I take a little longer with the less familiar ones. Will, what would you say about Pioneer Mothers species diversity? Also, Dr. Don Bragg visited the woodlands a couple of years ago for ENTS, if I remember correctly. Will and Don, we should combine our data to get a good updated Rucker index.

In the images above, the Black Walnut measures 12.1 feet in girth. The highest top I could get on it is approximately 114.0 feet. I did break 130 feet on Tulip Poplar, Northern Red Oak, and American Sycamore. 



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