Monica and I are on the road and I thought I'd
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
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
Bob Leverett (July 14, 2009)
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