Today I drove up into one of the easternmost areas of Wharton State
Forest where there was once a bog iron furnace called Martha
Furnace. I believe it went into blast in 1800, and of course the
entire bog iron industry failed in the 1840s. There was of course a
village around the furnace, a company town, as all the furnaces had.
If you worked at the furnace, you lived in the town. The furnaces
were that remote.
Anyway, surrounding the site of the ironmaster's mansion, as well as
a few other spots in the old village, you will find old, mangled,
sad-looking Southern Catalpa trees (Catalpa bignoniodes). Many of
them look so bad that you would think that they couldn't possibly be
still alive, yet they are (and very much so, for now). I'm sure
they've survived a forest fire or two since the Martha Furnace days.
Among these Catalpas there is the remains of an old buttonwood. It
is basically a hollow half stump, but it is still alive! There is
a living vertical leader growing from it. I bet it had a CBH of 10
to 11 feet when it was still a complete tree. It's an amazing thing
to see. There are also some Black Walnut trees among the Catalpas,
but just a few.
So, using the digital camera, I photographed most of the Catalpas
from various angles, trying to show the living parts, and also
trying to show how bad they look, to show how amazing it is that
they are alive. But here's a very cool thing I found: I found one
Catalpa that had fallen over, with some of its roots sticking out in
mid air. A part of the trunk got forced tightly against the ground.
It then rooted, and either an existing branch grew into a new tree,
or a new tree grew from that small section of trunk that's against
the ground. You can see the base of this new tree growing outwardly
over the old horizontal tree. It's hard to figure out exactly what
this thing did, really.
Then I found another Catalpa that's even more odd. There is a
two-trunk tree that fell over completely (it's still alive though).
A new tree has grown up from the former root mass and base of the
tree. But several feet away there's a smaller tree that is bent over
(not uprooted). This is also still alive. The trunk comes out of the
ground, then goes into a curve, ending up going towards the ground
again, but somehow part of it ended up laying on top of the root
mass of the double tree that fell over. I can't figure out if the
new tree growing from the root of the fallen tree has anything to do
with this other bent-over arcing tree. It must, because the
bent-over arcing tree is alive, but where are its branches and
top? This tree growing on the root of the other one must also be the
bent-over tree. I can't figure it out. I am unable to come up with a
completely viable chain of events that caused what I saw there,
since two trees that are near each other
are involved. It's very, very odd, but very cool.
Nearby I found another oddball Catalpa. There's a tree that was
leaning, apparently. Somehow it leaned so bad that it touched the
ground in one spot. Try picturing a backwards letter S, laying over
horizontally, but with the curves not near as acute as an S. This
thing leans over to the ground, and then goes back up, almost
vertically. It has grown so much since it fell over that the part of
the trunk that is growing back vertically again is noticeably larger
in diameter than the part that comes out of the ground where the
original roots are. And that part appears dead now, and the part
that is laying on the ground, which is a few feet long, is rooted
Also nearby I found a beautiful large pine that I think is a
Shortleaf Pine. At about 6 to 7 feet above the ground a second
leader starts. This tree is quite big so I measured it. I had to
measure it at 3 feet above the ground in order to get below the
flare from the second leader. At 3 feet above the ground I got a
circumference of 6'9". Just to make sure I was getting the smallest
possible measurement, I measured again, 4 inches lower, and came up
with 6'9" again.
Also nearby, across the sand road, (where the forest is 100% pine
trees), I found a smallish Pitch Pine with an unusually long branch
on it. It was cool.
Also nearby I found an Atlantic White Cedar that had fallen over,
with some of its roots out of the ground. The treetop is in mid-air.
But three of the branches of this tree are now growing into new
trees. They are evenly spaced along the trunk of the tree.
I took the opportunity to walk down to the bog along the Wading
River, and saw lots of Pitcher Plants. I've never visited any of our
bogs in the winter before. The Pitcher Plants apparently die back
each year and then grow new plants each Spring, just like any
perennial I suppose. So it was neat to see all these baby Pitcher
Plants coming up. There was no sign of any of the Sundews yet.
Anyway, further away I found a Pitch Pine that had broken and fallen
over. The CBH must be at least 5'6". I took the opportunity to
measure the tree as it lay on the ground. I came up with roughly 65
to 68 feet. It appears that most of the standing trees there are
And finally, further away still, I found a small PItch Pine that had
fallen over and was completely horizontal, with some of its roots in
mid-air. Half-way up the length of the tree, it turned upward and
started to grow vertical again. But in this case the entire tree is
alive, not like the Catalpa described above that fell over and
rooted before growing upward again.
This bit of forest is so cool. I wish some of you guys could have
been there with me to see all this. I have visited this site many
times, but never surveyed it so carefully before.
Pictures will come later. I want people to see what I saw.