Hatfield sycamore, MA   Robert Leverett
  Jun 05, 2006 05:37 PDT 

ENTS (Don Bertolette in particular)

hatfield2.jpg (119589 bytes)

Hatfield Sycamore in Winter

    On Saturday, I visited the Hatfield Sycamore in Hatfield, MA, near a
former home of Don Bertolette's. The Hatfield tree is one of 5 great
sycamores that I routinely visit and measure in New England-New York.
The others are the Sunderland sycamore (MA), the Pinchot sycamore (CT),
the Pocumtuck Buttonwood (MA), and the Pine Plains sycamore (NY). The
Hatfield sycamore is a street tree that was probably planted about 200
years ago. I have a reproduction of a drawing of it from 1898 given to
me by the family whose house the tree is close to. The tree was large
then. But today it really is a whopper and continues to add volume. It
has grown a foot in circumference since I've been tracking it. That must
be around 13 years. Its current measurements are as follows:

     Circumference at base:            28.5'

     Circumference at breast height:   24.2'

     Circumference at 10':             22.3'

     Circumference at 20':             19.4'

     Circumference at 25':             21.4' (below limb separation)

     Point of limb separation:         27'

     Height:                          118.2'

     Average spread:                  130'

     Limb separation comes at 27 feet above the base on this sycamore
and at that point 4 large limbs emerge. The largest limb starts at an
initial girth of 12 feet, but then expands to 14 feet around at just
below the branching of the limb at 35 feet above the base. It has
further branching, but the subsequent levels of branching have not been
modeled. Instead this limb structure is treated as a cone to a height
level of 100 feet above ground level. The second limb starts at a
circumference of 10.6 feet and is carried to a height level of 118 feet.
The second limb is 7.5 feet around at 61 feet above the tree's base just
before the bulge leading to a split. There is a lot of wood in these
first two limb structures The third limb starts out at 8.5 feet in girth
and is carried in the calculations to a height level of 95 feet. The
fourth limb starts at a girth of 7.2 feet and is carried to a height
level of 90 feet. The trunk and 4 limbs yields 2101 cubes. Given that
this is only a partial modeling, is this a reasonable projection of the
total volume? Please consider the following.

        1. Each major limb structure branches several times and builds
up wood volume below each branching point. The expansion of the first
limb from a girth of 12 feet to 14 feet is an example of the wood
build-up. There are probably 15 extra cubes of wood in these bulges over
the entire tree - if not more. I didnít include the bulges in the first

        2. Small lateral branches were not modeled. There are a couple
dozen such branches with at least a cube of volume in each. Then there
are numerous ľ to Ĺ-cube limbs. It is not hard to build a case for 40
cubes in these subordinate branches. There may be more volume, but for
the present, I've settled on 40 cubes.

        3. The limb length is greater than actually modeled because
crown spread has not been factored into calculating limb length. The
limbs were treated as if they were vertically aligned, which, of course
they aren't. For example, the limb structure modeled to a height level
of 118 feet above the base of the tree starts at 27 feet up and angles
outward. The modeled length is 91 feet (91+27=118). However, the tree's
great spread gives the limb structure a horizontal component of at least
50 feet, creating an actual limb length of more than 104 feet.
Comparably conservative lengths were computed for the other three limb
structures. There are at least 40 more cubes than modeled due to the
added limb lengths.

       4. I treated the area between 25 and 27 feet as a cylinder using
the area at 25 feet. However, the width at 27 feet up is greater than at
25. The difference is at least 15 cubes.

     So, I would estimate that a good 110 cubes were not modeled.
However, the RD 1000 was used for the modeling and thatís a problem.
Based on lots of tests, the RD has a probable over-calculation of
between 4% and 5% on large trees even when conservative readings have
been taken on the trunk and limbs. If liberal readings are taken the
over-calculation can easily reach 10%. I took conservative readings. So
taking my calculated volume of 2101 cubic feet, adding in the 110 missed
cubes, and reducing the result by 5% gives 2100 cubes. We'll see how
well this calculation holds up with additional measurements. But at this
point, I believe the 2100 cubes for the Hatfield sycamore is reasonable.
That's a lot of wood, but the tree starts off at 28.5 feet in girth at
the base, which is taken at between 0.5 and 1 feet up. The Hatfield
sycamore is not a cheater in any way.

    As for the other great sycamores, I would guess that the Sunderland
sycamore holds between 2400 and 2600 cubes. I think the Pinchot sycamore
holds a comparable amount, as does the Pine Plains sycamore. These 4
distinguished trees form the 2000 club. The Pocumtuck Buttonwood
probably has about 1700 cubes, so Iím not including it as a candidate
yet. But a lot of work remains, folks. The horizontal extension and
twisting of the limbs, the many branchings, the elliptical parts, etc.
all introduce the possibility of errors on the order of between 100 and
200 cubes more or less. The Hatfield sycamore is a giant, but it won't
match the other three. It really is going to be a horse race between
them. Then there is that huge sycamore Howard measured in southern NY.
Howard's measurements suggest a 2000+ cubic-foot volume.

    Well, I guess the 2000 Club of the Northeast has officially been
born. Are there other northeastern candidates? Someone sent me a picture
of huge sycamore in eastern Massachusetts next to a bank - I think. I
have to retrieve the image. But I believe the tree may be a candidate.
There may be a cottonwood or two that will make it into the club, but
I'm unsure if cottonwoods develop the limb volume necessary to make the
2000 mark. We'll see.

    My compulsion to measure these big trees is not of recent origin.
Twelve years ago, a friend of mine Dick Matthews, a retired English
professor from the University of Illinois wanted to do a freelance
article for Yankee Magazine on the largest tree in New England. Dick
thought I had the answer. I had not. I had no clue and told him so. I
also told him that the champion tree lists would be of no real help. I
thought to myself that one day I would answer that question. Well, 12
years later, an answer seems far more feasible.


Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society

Re: Hatfield sycamore   Don Bertolette
  Jun 05, 2006 18:46 PDT 

EeeGaddsss! A foot in circumference in 13 years...that's astounding!!! I
was last there 13 years ago...wait a second, I think I've gained half that
in girth since then, but then again, I'm not 200 years old yet!
Amazing tree!
While I hadn't seen the others, the Sunderland Sycamore always impressed me
RE: Hatfield sycamore   Robert Leverett
  Jun 06, 2006 04:35 PDT 


   In searching my records, I find the first measurement of the Hatfield
sycamore to be 23.4 feet around. It is now 24.1. So that is 0.7 feet in
13 years. In addition, I probably adjusted the base spot, so I suspect
that the actual increase is about a half a foot in 13 years.

   However, nearly the same kind of rapid growth is occurring for the
Sunderland and Pinchot sycamores. The Pinchot tree is currently 27.7
feet in circumference. The plaque in front of the tree lists its
circumference at 23 feet and four inches I think. The people who
establish these plaques don't seem to realize that these trees grow. It
would make sense if the plaque gave the measurements as of the date of
the plaque and stated that the tree can be expected to continue growing.
It receives abundant water from the nearby Farmington river.   

   The Pine Plains tree appears to be nearly stagnant in its growth.

RE: Why the linden - back to Pamela   Robert Leverett
  Jun 09, 2006 05:18 PDT 

BTW, what is your connection to the American sycamore? It is a sacred
tree in Cherokee lore. I am always in awe of the tree. A lot of people
don't like it because of the button balls. Interestingly the late Dr.
Michael Perlman saw the sycamore as an angry tree. That was his
psychological profile of the species. I have to say that I don't relate
to the sycamore that way at all.

While taking measurements on the great Hatfield sycamore yesterday
evening, a passerby showed curiosity about what I was doing. Naturally I
obliged with a lot more numeric information than he was probably
seeking, but he then matched me with his own information. It seems that
he grew up in the adjacent house and the sycamore was a favorite tree.
His father measured the tree's girth at its base at 25 feet and some
few inches. I'm guessing that the measurement was taken at least 60
years ago. The sycamore once had a large opening in the front. I
actually have a drawing of the tree made in 1898 that shows the opening.
Children could crawl inside the hole and frequently did. He was one of
them. Some children started a fire that burned inside the tree for a
long time. The fire department had a heck of a time putting it out.
However, the opening has almost completely healed over. The original
spot is hardly visible. Way cool!

   The gent also said that there were ample historical records of the
tree in the Hatfiled Library, even accounts of Native children playing
near it. Wow! If those accounts are accurate, then the tree is probably
at leat 300 years old if not 350. The gent will likely give ENTS a full
account of his association with the tree. Now that is just way, way

RE: Why the linden - back to Pamela   Robert Leverett
  Jun 09, 2006 12:26 PDT 


   I'm familiar with that description of the Pringle Tree.
http://www.hackerscreek.com/pringle.htm gives an account of the Pringle
brothers. There are a number of other historic accounts of the cavernous
openings of giant sycamores being used to house livestock, especially
hogs. The largest recorded sycamores grew in Kentucky, Pennsylvania,
Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. George Washington, when a surveyor,
measured one in the Ohio River Valley (I think) at slightly over 44 feet
in circumference. The same tree was measured later by Andreau Michaux, a
botanist. An even larger tree grew in Kokomo, IN. Its stump remains and
is advertised as being 57 feet in girth, which equals 18.1 feet when
divided by pi. A still larger tree grew near Mount Carmel, IL. Near its
base, it measured a whopping 63 feet in girth.

   Our big northeastern sycamores fall far short of those behemoths, but
they are still our largest trees.

RE: Historical Accounts of Trees   Matthew Hannum
  Jun 09, 2006 15:32 PDT 

Interesting - I didn't know the American Sycamore was considered sacred.
I also find the concept of it being an "angry" tree to not match my
feelings of sycamores. I see them as big, burly beings that like their
space and have "seen it all" so to speak, but who have nothing against
anyone who wants to sit beneath them or gaze in awe at their huge size.
They tend to be massive, gnarly trees, and their frequent appearance in
urban or suburban settings (though these are sometimes the very similar
Londan Plane tree) exposes them to all sorts of hazards. I can just
imagine a sycamore thinking something like, "*Sigh* Okay... so somebody
decided to crash a car into me today... fine... It'll heal... and I'll
just keep growing larger and larger... I won't let that slow me down -
but so much for my looks!"

Sycamores impress me as being a sort of "long suffering" type of tree
that could all use a good friend - one who doesn't plant them in tiny
yards, "top" them, run cars into them, etc.

Some of the biggest trees I've seen are sycamores, and they were also
the first examples of truly BIG trees I saw in my youth, so I think
highly of them.

RE: Historical Accounts of Trees   Robert Leverett
  Jun 12, 2006 05:26 PDT 


   Thanks for the post. It is interesting to hear others describe the
psychological impacts that particular species of trees have on them. The
late Dr.Michael Perlman believed that trees have inherent psychological
structures. He didn't see trees as having a human-type psychological
structures, but one that exists, nonetheless. He was a lot smarter than
I am and I had trouble following his line of thinking. Mike would give
long, deep, convoluted explanations and I would struggle to understand.
I had to dumb down what I was hearing. I eventually came up with
something like the following.

    The tree's psychological structure induces emotions that we feel
toward the tree. But those emotions are intertwined with our own
reactions to the physical attributes of the tree. Disentangling the two
components, i.e. that which comes from the tree as the source and that
which originates with us as the source may not be possible at least not
initially. Howeevr, there would be subtle, indirect ways to get at the
tree's psychological structure as distinct from our predilections for
attributes like symmetry, size, color, etc.

   It might take an imagination like Pamela's to take one the challenge
of disentangling tree as the source, us as the source, and the ball of
yarn created. My simple mind seems always to revert to, Ugh, big tree!
Gotta measure it.

Back to the Hatfield Sycamore   Robert Leverett
  Jun 12, 2006 05:42 PDT 


On Saturday, my friend and companion Tree Amigo Professor Gary Beluzo
and I went to Hatfield to continue modeling the Hatfield sycamore. This
time we used the Macroscope 25, the high precision instrument we've been
talking about, now owned by 5 of us, to measure trunk and limb diameters
at a distance. We took 33 key diameter measurements and added 45 cubes
for what couldnít be measured. When all was said and done, the volume of
the Hatfield giant came to 2105 cubic feet. This still does not account
for the full length of the limbs, nor does it deal with ellipticality.
The first factor increases volume and the second decreases it. One may
just about offset the other. I doubt that there is much more volume in
the Hatfield Sycamore than 2100 cubes - maybe 2200, or 2250 at the very
most. But for the present, we will settle on 2105. That's the official
ENTS volume determination for the Hatfield sycamore.

Interestingly the earlier RD 1000 modeling, which was done by an
entirely different process, led to 2100 cubes. I emphasize that the two
modelings were done entirely independently of one another. The second
modeling did not refer back to the first. It was not an attempt to
confirm the first. In the case of the RD 1000, the width of the tree
just below the separation of the individual trunks was done from across
the street, which provides the broadest view at that level. The RD 1000
was done at right angles and presents the narrowest view. In the case of
the RD 1000, fewer measurements were taken and more projections were
made. That the two modelings came so close is surprising.

The Macroscope 25 modeling of the Hatfield sycamore gives us our best
determination of the volume of a broad spreading sycamore in the general
size class of the Hatfield tree. But the shapes of the Sunderland,
Pinchot, and Pine Plains trees are very different and almost certainly
larger than the Hatfield tree. I think each will be between 300 and 600
cubes more than the Hatfield tree with the probability favoring the 300
end of the range.

        I think the next tree to be modeled will be the Pinchot. It has
very convenient access. However, if I donít get to it in the next couple
of weeks, I wonít be able to model it until late fall. The foliage is
filling in fast.

BTW, Gary is going to take digital photos and create a detailed stem
mapping system for us to use in refining our measurements. We will
eventually have numbered diagrams with multiple measurements for each
limb segment to post to the website. ENTS members will be able to see
the tree from at least 4 directions, see where measurements have been
taken, what they are, and what they add up to. Way cool.

On Sunday, Monica, John Knuerr, Nancy Rich, Tony D'Amato, and I were
at MTSF. We were gathering materail for a trail guide folder. John and I
took the opportunity to measure the new growth on the Jake Swamp tree.
It is 2.9 inches at this point, which appears to be about the same for
the other larger, older pines in the area. The new growth makes Jake
167.6 feet tall. By mid-July, Jake will probably be 167.8 or 167.9 feet
in height and if weíre lucky, 168.0. The new growth isn't sufficient to
raise MTSF's RHI10.


Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society
Back to Hatfield   Robert Leverett
  Jun 16, 2006 07:30 PDT 


     Yesterday evening, I was back at the Hatfield determining limb
lengths and factoring the full length of each major limb into the limb
volume calculations for the Hatfield sycamore, as opposed to using only
the vertical component of limb length - an obvious understatement of
length. I also tightened the calculations in the narrowest part of the
trunk before limb bulge. Although a lot of fine tuning must still take
place, the conservative determination of total volume for the Hatfield
giant is 2,203 cubes. That's is up from 2,105. I'm willing to go with
the 2,203 for now.


Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society