Robinson State Park update   John Eichholz
  Dec 03, 2006 18:38 PST 


Robinson State Park, in Agawam Massachusetts, is on the banks and
terraces above the Westfield River, near its confluence with the
Connecticut River. The park encompasses about 900 acres in a strip
along the river. The bluffs above the river are in some places about
200' high, in others as close as 60'.

The first cove we explored was in the lower area. Elevations in this
cove are from 150' to 60 feet above the river. In the plains at the
base of the cove is flat and rather wet land, with several small
streams. The dominant canopy here is red oak and tuliptree, with some
white ash, white oak, red maple, yellow birch, beech, and sporadic
shagbark hickory. The tuliptrees seem to be an even aged cohort for the
most part, and are mostly located in the lower area near the cove basin
and flats beyond the cove. The trees are in beautiful shape, with large
thrifty crowns, straight trunks, and no sign of wind damage or disease.
This location is probably the most northerly site with extensive natural
tulip tree population in Massachusetts, although we know of a few
isolated pockets farther north, so the health of the trees is of some

We also visited a second cove. This cove is much deeper, over 100' from
the rim to the base, with no flat areas at the base. Rather, the cove
empties directly in to the Westfield River. The state height champ for
tuliptree is in this cove, which we reconfirmed to 140.8' or so. There
are about six or eight tuliptrees in this cove, with a couple 130' among
them. There is also a small population of American Beech, midsized but
quite tall for the area. There is quite a bit of red oak, some white
oak, some white ash, and a lone pignut hickory in the canopy.

The park is the subject of a recent controversy over a proposed
logging/thinning operation, about which a public hearing will be held on
December 12. Some of the thinning is marked up to and a bit over the
edge of the first described cove. We did not view the main marked
areas, although I did visit an area near the entrance, which seems to be
marked in a manner consistent with a timber improvement thinning. Much
of the controversy is due to a state restriction prohibiting commercial
logging within State Parks.

I think the only park record we broke was for white oak, but we came
close on beech and pignut hickory. Here is my list for the day -- note,
I did not take some of the CBH readings nor all of the tree readings, so
there is more from this outing:

cbh species Height

First cove
11.0      Tulip Tree         126.8
5.5        White Ash         114.8
--        White Oak          94.9
8.5         Tulip Tree        123.9
---      Shagbark Hickory   97.9
--      Tulip Tree          118.6
5.3       American Beech     96.8

Second cove
6.0      American Beech      105.4
5.2      American Beech      107.6
5.2       American Beech     104.8
--        White Ash            129.3
--        Tulip Tree             140.9
5.4      American Beech      105.8
6.4       White Oak            106.3
4.7      American Beech      103.0
4.8       Pignut Hickory        112.1   Bob got 114'+

John Eichholz
Behind the scenes   Robert Leverett
  Dec 04, 2006 12:58 PST 


If you want a tree-measuring superstar, just call on the services of
ENTS mathematician John Eichholz. On our Robinson visit yesterday, John
went right to work and by day's end we had earned a detour to Friendly's
where John introduced himself to the miracle of watermelon sherbet. Why
had John earned the trip? Because, we successfully raised Robinson's
Rucker by 0.3 of a point from 118.2 to 118.5. I expect that we'll
eventually get Robinson's Rucker to 119. But we have to stay honest to
our mission. We must intensify our search for a taller Valley white

One side story worth presenting is the (yes we did it again)
remeasurement of the champion tuliptree. The species can be devilishly
difficult to measure with lots of tops to test, one often behind
another. Change your ground position by a couple of feet and the laser
no longer returns bounces from the target twig. However, I wanted John's
determination to represent another expert measurement and to stand
beside Gary's and mine. So, we each measured the tulip and from a
different location. Gary got a 140.9, I got a 140.9, and John got a
140.8. Two other measurements of mine were 140.6 and 141.1. I settled on
140.9. The tulip's girth is a highly respectable 10.5 feet.

So, why do we keep measuring the same tree? Its to get a cluster of
measurements on the twig of interest, once we've zeroed in on the spot
that gives us our highest readings. This may not happen for a couple or
three visits, because we just don't fine the twig. But for the Robinson
tree, we've now had Will Blozan, John Eichholz, Gary Beluzo, and myself
measure the tree and all of us have gotten at least one measurement over
140. We've also got measurements in the 139.0 to 139.9 range. However,
as Ed Frank points out, choosing the right measurement is not a process
of averaging. It is a process of locating the spot in the crown of the
tree that gives the highest readings, taking repeated measurements of
that spot, examining the patterns. That way spurious returns can be
identified and eliminated and checks can be made on clinometer readings
where the clinometer sticks.

   I never thought of tree-measuring as a committee activity, but there
is a lot at stake relative to the big Robinson tuliptree. Uh, okay, Bob,
you ask: what specifically is at stake? Well, as of yesterday, the
Robinson tree became the tallest tree of any species to be measured in
the Connecticut River Valley. The 140.9 figure surpasses two Valley
white pines, both of which are a hair over 140 feet. In addition, at
least 4 other tuliptrees in Robinson surpass 130 feet. What is
Robinson's competition? There are 3 tuliptrees in a stand in Northampton
over 130 and an isolated tuliptree on U.S. Route 20 just over 130. So
far, that is it. The number of other hardwoods species in the Valley
that have been measured to over 130 feet in height stands at one species
- American sycamore. We've found one sycamore in that class and it grows
in Easthampton. That worthy individual stands at an impressive 137 feet,
but based on all the other sycamores we've measured it is a statistical

   Courtesy of Robinson SP, we have a white ash at 127.0, but none that
reaches the magic 130. The northern red oak in Robinson weighs in at
117.2 feet. It is tops of for its species in the Valley. Somewhere there
may be an eastern cottonwood that brushes 130, but darned if I can find
it. Eventually, John Eichholz, Gary Beluzo, or myself will confirm a
Valley pine to 141 or 142, but until that happens, the Robinson SP
tuliptree is the Lord of the Valley.   

    We now have our work cut for for us. We need to scour the Westfield
River corridor, to include its Little River tributary for other
tuliptree spots. It isn't enough to know that they are present,
somewhere, but how well they are doing in the Connecticut River Valley
and its tributaries. It is all part of our tuliptree profiling and we're
gradually making headway across the range of the species. A more full
accounting will appear in the next edition of the Bulletin of the
Eastern Native Tree Society.

   The big tuliptree we measured in the new location that we visited
dresses out at an impressive 136.0 feet in height and 11.4 feet in
girth. So these aren't pencil-thin trees that shot up through an opening
to significant heights, but would hardly be noticed except to height
measurers. These are impressive trees.    


Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society

Robinson Tulips   Robert Leverett
  Dec 06, 2006 09:12 PST 


   One by one, we'll locate and document the special trees of Robinson.
Can the tulip stay dominant in the Connecticut River Valley -
Massachusetts portion thereof? The tuliptree probably has just barely
the capacity to reach 150 feet in the Connecticut River Valley of
southern Massachusetts. Maybe we'll eventually find one or two
statistical outliers. The Hudson River watershed at the latitude of
about 41.7 degrees definitely has 150-ft class tulips. But, it would be
truly inspiring to locate a 150-footer in Massachusetts and more
particularly in Robinson.

I was especially interested in your observations about what might have
provided the tulips in the ravine complex we visited on Sunday their
opportunity to start growing. I'm wondering if Russ Richardson can shed
light on the initial growing conditions for the species as one goes from
the latitudes in West Virginia to Massachusetts?

Re: Robinson Tulips
  Dec 06, 2006 09:49 PST 

The 150 is a wish list Bob, but it would certainly be nice to find it.

I suspect based on the topography of the locations of these stands
that some water based event such as heavy flooding runoff may
have precipitated the growth of these. The top layer of soil in that
area is typically acidic in nature and heavy with oak material.
Once you get below that, it gets more mineral in nature. Exposing
the lower layer for a period of time due to a heavy surface erosion
due to runoff may have been the catalyst. Its also possible it
was a fire, but thats much more unlikely seeing that they are
rather widely spread apart.

Love to hear input from the south about that being likely.
Coring will shed some light on the exact age of these.