Connecticut River - Hatfield    dbhguru
   May 10, 2003 18:21 PDT 

        Not satisfied after MTSF, I persuaded Jani to go for a ride up the Connecticut River to the Hatfield floodplain. There is an area I like to visit after the water has subsided and before the mosquitoes make visits a nightmare. Today was that day. I first shot a silver maple with the new Nikon at the edge of the flood zone. It just eclipses 103 feet. A cottonwood close by merited scrutiny. It weighed in with a CBH=9.4' and a height of 110.1'. A second cottonwood was smaller weighing in at CBH=8.1' and height of 103.8'. Then I spotted it, the mother of all coppice silver maples. Its height proved identical to the shorter cottonwood; i.e. 103.8'. The trunk system showed no fusion cracks on the downhill side. On the uphill, organic matter was piled up to obscure the real base. Trunk fusion was evident, but may have been seamless below the organic material piled up against the trunk. Threading the tape around the un-seamed downhill side and uphill seamed side led to 25.9 feet! I didn't choose to measure the spread, but will certainly exceeds 100 feet, probably around 115. The coppice silver maple may not be a legitimate tree for champion tree contests, but it is one impressive assemblage of trunks, whatever their origin.

    The two more 100+ foot cottonwoods brings the significant cottonwood list to 41 trees. The Silver Maple list stands at 37. My amazement at the number of fine cottonwoods and silver maples as impressive trees continues to grow. Remembering back to when I didn't think I could break 100 feet on silver maples makes me ever more conscious on how we filter what we see and hear to fit preconceived ideas.

Hatfield Floodplain, Connecticut River    Robert Leverett
   Aug 20, 2003 06:30 PDT 

Dale, Howard, Tom, Lee, and other cottonwood afficianados:

Gary Beluzo and I struck it rich yesterday evening in the Hatfield
floodplain of the Connecticut River. The borders between fields where
there are drainages and on the cuts going down to the Connecticut River
harbor beauties. Our first patch was devilishly difficult to get into.
The surrounding tall burdock, thistles, etc, were 6 to 8 feet high. A
second patch of beautiful cottonwoods was easier to access. Our catch
for the day was as follows.

Location      Girth           Height

1st patch     9.0 ft est.      114.5
1st patch     9.5 ft est.      114.1

2nd patch     9.4 ft           110.1
2nd patch     9.8 ft           110.5
2nd patch     9.6 ft           118.5
2nd patch    10.1 ft           125.1

   There were others that appeared to be in the 105 to 115-foot height
range and perhaps another 120. We were eaten alive by mosquitos, so
further forays must await cooler temperatures.

    The 125-footer is one sweet tree. It becomes number 9 over 120 feet
in Massachusetts. Eventually, I'll hit 130, but it is very apparent that
for the Connecticut River Valley north of Connecticut, that is the
limit, remembering that these trees are growing in the absolute best of
conditions for the species.

    What are we learning from all the roaming around searching for
cottonwoods? Well, here are some preliminary observations/conclusions.

1. The cottonwood grows best in deep silt-based soils. Where sand is
dominant, growth is remarkable foreshortened.

2. Cottonwoods exploit shallow depressions very well. Borders of
agricultural fields with ditches/drainages are ideally suited to maximum
cottonwood growth. Areas that stay flooded for long periods support
cottonwoods, but they are usually stressed and significantly lag their
borders of fields cousins. Slopes going down to rivers are equally good
cottonwood habitat.
3. Cottonwoods snake their way up the river valleys and into the
mountains surprisingly far, but quickly lose any competitive advantages.
they appear mostly in very small clumps or as isolated individuals.

4. In southern New England, the cottonwood can reach 100 feet in under
50 years, but then slows down greatly. Throughout Massachusetts a cap of
130 feet seems to firmly apply (we haven't quite reached it) and in most
areas 110-115 feet seems to be the cap. Age is a big factor and a lot
more analysis needs to be done to establish growth curves for the

5. Rapid growth in girth continues past 50 years to allow cottonwoods
under 100 years of age to reach large size (no surprises there), but
really huge trees are very widely scattered.

6. Maximum age or average maximum age is still unknown for the
cottonwood in Massachusetts, but the life span of 90 to 150 years
probably includes most cottonwoods. However, individuals can attain much
older ages, so that generalizations about age are still hard to make.

7. Cottonwoods have come of age as relates to stature. In the
Connecticut River Valley, the cottonwood is now the most common 100-foot
tree to be found outside of the places wherer white pines commonly grow.
As is almost invariably the case, the pine assumes height dominance, but
cottonwood is now number two.

8. Assuming that they are left to grow, in the next 50 years, the
Connecticut River Valley will be awash in stately cottonwoods in the 100
to 125-foot height range and 3 to 4.5-foot diameter range. They will be
imposing in appearance. However, trees above 125 feet in height or 4.5
feet in diameter will be very sparsely distributed.


Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society

Cottonwood Catch
   Aug 23, 2003 15:47 PDT 


   Today was near perfect temperature-wise. A 10-15 mph wind added to the
comfort. Back to the Hatfield floodplain and the cottonwoods Jani and I went. I
remeasured the tallest from early in the week, this time taking more time.
Alas, I had to drop the height a few inches, but I was able to add a couple of
real beauties. One was 10.4-ft around and 118.3 ft tall. The other was 8.7 feet
around and 117.1 feet tall. Not bad. A third was 111.9 feet tall and 8.8 feet
around. I then plowed through head-high weeds over to the banks of the
Connecticut river to check out what appeared to be a large, old cottonwood. Its
13.6-foot girth and 92-foot height confirmed it as large and it was definitely
old. However, other cottonwoods in the immediate vicinity didn't appear
particularly exceptional. At least they weren't worth enduring more mosquito
bites and plowing through more 6-foot weeds.

   The full list of cottonwoods from the Hatfield floodplain past and present
follows. There are 16 trees, 14 of which have been measured since June. The
other 2 were measured in Feb, 2002. Some of you may recall the photo of the
huge cottonwood by Gary Beluzo. Fourteen of the 16 trees measure 30 inches or
more in diameter. Half of the trees measure are 36 inches or more in diameter.
However, only 2 exceed 4 feet through. Three exceed 118 feet in height. This
further illustrates that the likelihood of finding a 12-foot circumference
cottonwood is about the same as finding a 118-foot tall one. It will be
interesting to see if this relationship holds as the cottonwood database grows.
I'm presently at 101 trees.

Hgt-ft Cir-ft Dia-in DOM
124.6 10.3 39.3 23-Aug-03 (originally shown as 10.1 feet)
118.5 9.6 36.7 18-Aug-03
118.3 10.4 39.7 23-Aug-03
117.1 8.7 33.2 23-Aug-03
114.5 9.5 36.3 18-Aug-03
114.1 9.0 34.4 18-Aug-03
111.9 8.8 33.6 23-Aug-03
110.5 9.8 37.4 18-Aug-03
110.1 9.4 35.9 10-May-03
109.2 8.7 33.2 18-Aug-03
107.4 6.5 24.8 03-Jun-03
104.3 7.7 29.4 03-Jun-03
103.8 8.1 30.9 10-May-03
101.4 19.8 75.6 23-Feb-02
101.3 9.8 37.4 23-Feb-02
94.0 13.6 51.9 23-Aug-03


Conway, Mass
  Oct 03, 2003 20:14 PDT 


    BTW, the large Conway, MA cemetary white pine measures 140.9 feet in height and 14.1 feet in circumference! It's one of the big ones. A near by black locust measures 7.4 feet around and 100.8 feet in height.  <Single stem. It's a beauty.>

   Well, that's my contribution for the day. Tomorrow, back to the flood plain forest.

Hatfield and Deerfield, Mass
  Oct 04, 2003 12:10 PDT 

This AM David Graves and I went to Hatfield and Deerfield to cruise the banks of the Connecticut River. The following list covers today's measurements. There are plenty of trees remaining, but my sample sizes for cottonwood and silver maple are beginning to yield stable averages. Note the large 14.4-foot cottonwood. It had broken off about about 45 feet up the trunk. I didn't measure its height and I could find a vantage point to measure the height of the 11.4-foot circumference silver maple.

Location Species Height Circumference

Hatfield CW 115.3 6.8
Hatfield CW 115.1 9.6
Deerfield CW 113.4 9.5
Hatfield CW 112.6 10.8
Hatfield SVM 106.7 7.7
Hatfield CW 105.1 7.8
Hatfield CW 104.4 8.3
Hatfield CW 103.4 8.1
Hatfield CW 103.2 9.4
Hatfield CW 102.3 9.2
Hatfield SVM 100.7 9.7
Hatfield SVM 97.3 11.8
Hatfield CW 97.0 13.2
Hatfield SVM 11.4
Hatfield CW 14.4

Averages 105.9 9.8

Summaries follow.

Species    No.      Hgt           Circumference

SVM        40       99.6             12.8
CW        118      108.6             10.1
RE: Red Oak Champ
  Nov 27, 2004 15:21 PST 

Yes. I remember now. Hey, today, I spent time in the Hatfield area on the Connecticut River flood plain. It will be a new Rucker site. Here's the catch of the day:

Species                   height      girth

Cottonwood           123.0       15.0 (est)
N. red oak              110.7         6.8
Green ash                107.4         6.5
Hemlock                  106.1         7.3
Pignut hickory            103.3         4.0
Silver maple                 92.8       11.1
Black birch                   83.9         3.9

With a couple more visits, the index is likely to be around 102 or 103.

The cottonwood is on an island with other huge trees. Gotta get there.

RE: Hatfield Rucker Index
  Nov 28, 2004 06:01 PST 

    The limitations encountered to reaching a much higher Rucker index for the Hatfield site is absence of the super species white pine and sycamore. White pines do grow on the slopes above the flood plain, but their really wimpy. The cottonwood is the only really tall species growing there, but there is plenty of them. So between the cottonwoods and silver maples, the site is visually impressive.

Hatfield-Exit 21 Rucker Index
   Dec 19, 2004 11:25 PST 

    John Knuerr, my son Rob, and I completed computing a RI for the Hatfield flood plain forest in the vicinity of Exit 21 off I91. The numbers follow.









(est - on Canary Island)





Silver Maple       




N. red oak        




Green ash          








Pignut hickory     




Black birch          




Shagbark Hickory 




Yellow Birch 












    The largest tree we measured was an old cottonwood (102.4, 14.8). We will eventually get the index up to 109 or 110, but without some upland species like white pine, it won't likely go higher. We were impressed with the silver maple (111.6, 13.0). That species continues to to surprise us. We also measured a black willow with a completely broken top (18.8, 48est). Yep, a whopper.

   Yesterday, Susan Scott and I returned to Trout Brook. We added a 120.2-foot American basswood that was on the other side of the brook. Its circumference was not more than 5 feet. We re-measured on of the largest of the white pines which we named the King Trout. Its measurements are a very respectable (145.4, 11.6). A white pine not far away measures (11.8, 137.5).