First Day of Retirement - MTSF
  Jun 30, 2007 18:25 PDT 

     On Saturday, Monica and I went to MTSF to continue Tsuga Search-New England project. The program was officially kicked off when John Knuerr and I explored a drainage in Trout Brook Cove on May 20 that contains a stand of fairly young, very healthy, and fairly tall hemlocks. Hemlocks measured in that grove that day are recaped below.

    Height          Girth

    125.3            9.1
    124.8            7.3
    117.6            7.0
    114.4            8.4
    110.3            5.8
    108.5            4.9

      Many hemlocks are in the 100-foot height and 6-7-foot girth class. The appeal of this stand is that it has tremendous potential and may show us what hemlocks can do given 110-130 years of growing time in good growing conditions.

     On June 3rd, Monica and I scouted out a small cluster of much older hemlocks in MSF on a ridge overlooking the Deerfield River. Trees measured on that outing are listed below.

     Height          Girth

    118.4             9.7
    106.3           10.7
    103.7           11.3
    102.3             6.7

     The 11.3-ft girth, 103.7-ft height tree falls into a special class for Tsuga Search-New England. Trees 100 feet or more in height and 10 feet or more in girth will fall into a special class. I'm still thinking about a more complete criteria to identify heritage trees. I'm thinking of something like the following. A hemlock meeting any of the following criteria would be identified as a heritage tree.

     1. Height >= 125 feet
     2. Girth >=     11 feet
     3. Height >= 100 feet and Girth >= 11 feet
     4. Volume >= 500 cubic feet
     5. Age >=    231 years or more (predating the Declaration of Independence)    
    Trees that meet multiple criteria are higher on the totem pole. For example, the height champion hemlock of MTSF is 130.3 feet tall, 11.1 feet in girth, probably exceeds 500 cubes in volume, and is well over 231 years of age. It makes 4 of the 5 criteria above, and consequently, is a very high ranker. The huge Mount Tom hemlock meets all 5 criteria as does the champ in MTSF. They are unique in the state in this respect. So far, Iíve measured a total of 11 hemlocks 11 feet or more in girth in Mass. There are many more. Iíve measured 12 hemlocks over 125 feet in height. Iíve measured only 9 hemlocks that are 100 feet or more in height and also 11 feet or more in girth. I have no doubt that there are quite a few more. It is now a matter of expanding the search.

    Any ideas from fellow/lady ents would be most welcome. Of course a heritage criteria is promotional. It has little ecological significance, but these great trees need to be seen as individuals, not simply as part of a nameless, faceless collection with relevance only in the context of representing their species. The older I get, the more I relate to these old arboreal citizens as distinct individuals.

     On Saturday, Monica's and my destination was a cluster of hemlocks on a ridge overlooking the Cold River. The off-trail climb gains 630 feet elevation and is extremely steep in places, so the trees don't get many visitors. There are 4 large hemlocks scattered along a contour. Hardwoods surround these trees, but the stick up above the general hardwood canopy and can be seen from a distance. On Saturday, I had time to measure and model just one of the hemlocks. It is an old tree with an extremely columnar form. Its vital statistics follow.

    Height        Girth        Trunk Volume

     100.9         11.2            572

     The old hemlock makes 3 of the 5 individal criteria. The tree was named by Monica as the "Retirement Tree" in recognition of my first official day of retirement. The bulky hemlock still has a 33 inch diamter at 65 feet. But the foliage from surrounding trees was so thick that I couldn't see the trunk above 65 feet. I went up ridge and eventuallyspotted the crown to get a full height, but couldn't see the intervening part of the tree.

     One objective of Tsuga Search-New England is to accumulate data on hemlocks so that exceptional trees across the range of the species can be identified.