Hocking Hills SP, OH   tpdig-@ysu.edu
  Nov 23, 2004 14:29 PST 


The long-promised central Ohio report:

Last Saturday students and I visited Hocking Hills State Park, reputed to
contain Ohio's tallest trees, including a hemlock at 160' (doubtful, but
obviously worth checking).

The park sits astride erosion-resistant sandstone uplands that characterize much
of SE OH. In some areas, the bedrock is strongly faulte and jointed, so streams
have created very narrow and precipitous gullies, some over 200' deep. At
Hocking Hills, softer underlying strata have eroded away, leaving magnificent
recess caves for which the park is famous. Sounds like a good spot for tall
trees eh?

First, we descended the gorge near Old Man's Cave, site of the reported 160
footer. My skeptical self was hoping for 130' at least, but... Killer hemlock
old growth! A small patch of gorge bottom and sides is covered with stunning old
growth hemlock, fortunately spared from the heavy logging evident throughout the
region. Some trees over 10' CBH had lower bark broken into thick plates not
unlike those of an old-growth white pine. Cool! My students, who are plenty
familiar with the flora of Ohio, were awestruck at seeing the familiar hemlock
in such spectacular condition.

Oh, I suppose you want some numbers... (BTW, if I don't give CBH, tree was
across the creek)

Hemlock, all old growth:

139.8' x 7' 0" middle aged, with lower branch stubs
137.7' across the creek and uphill
140.1' BIG tree, but across the creek
143.7' x 9' 7" sticks out, probably the reported 160-footer
144.7' x 12' 0" virtually no taper, HUGE mass of wood!

Also, several old-growth tulip trees on the gorge slopes; probably trees with
bole defects (several of theme) or too hard to reach. One was 127' (from below)
x 12' 4", with 30'+ of balding. Later we could see this tree had an 18" blown
out trunk at 100'. Musta been huge in its younger days.

Continuing downstream the old growth receded quickly, but not the tall trees.
Young to middle-aged tulips abound, some are coppiced stump sprouts.

139.4' x 6' 1" & 5' 10" (coppice)
140.2' x 8' 6" nice tree, but doesn't look much over 100 years
123.6' gnarled defect-ridden old timer left behind

Planty of trees over 130', and I doubt I got the tallest ones. Might there be
150-footers down there?

Excellent tall young sycamores are likewise abundant. Some of these trees look
really young; perhaps as little as 50-70 years. They are 5 - 7' cbh and have
very little gnarly or platy bark, and smooth exfoliated bark on most of the
trunk. Zoar Valley's tall sycamores are slender, but older, and they have lots
more gnarl.

How tall? The tallest sprig in a nice grove across the creek was 146.1'. Yowzah!
Hey, could we get 150' on these too?

Well, needless to say we're going back to what will certainly be Ohio's tallest
forest yet described, and which could go 130' for a Rucker Index. There is as
much gorge left to explore as what we saw last weekend, so more surprises await.
We need additional species though. There was at least one tall beech (110'+) and
some nice yellow birches within the hemlock grove, and a few red oaks around
(all youngish), but there was very little hardwood diversity. No white ash, no
basswood, no maple of any kind. I don't know enough about the area to speculate
whether the paucity of hardwoods has resulted from heavy and repeated harvest,
or is a natural feature of this sandstone gully. The former wouldn't surprise me
- the logging was really heavy in this area - but it doesn't explain why tulip
and sycamore would be the only species to resprout and/or recruit after heavy
logging. Oh well, just gives me more reason to go back. I'll get some photos
next time as well.


More Hocking Hills, OH   tpdig-@ysu.edu
  Apr 02, 2005 13:10 PST 

Hello ENTS,

Finally getting out to do some field work. I should be canvassing OH tall tree
sites pretty intensively in the next month or so, before canopy leaf-out. Spent
a productive day in Hocking Hills SP's sandstone gullies with a talented new
grad student. Excellent data for on-going latitudinal gradient study, and we now
have enough species for a Rucker Index. Great American sycamore site! Several
floodplain groves similar in caliber to Zoar Valley's.

American sycamore, some shot from below due to tough location:

1) 147.1' x 7' 0"
2) 139.2' x 7' 11"
3) 145.0' x 7' 8"
4) 142.0' x 9' 0"
5) 146.5' x 7' 8"


6) 151.0' x 8' 11" yeah baby!!!

We came across another beautiful grove, but none of its trees seemed to exceed
140' (I believe it's less sheltered). I initially (last fall) thought these
sycamore groves might represent second growth, as there has certainly been much
timber harvest in the park. However, as I've become attuned to riparian forest
systems, I've become much more inclined to think these awesome groves are
actually first growth floodplain woodlands. I also think they are older than I
first suspected. First off, they're bigger than I estimated last fall from
across the creek. Second, they've got some decent gnarl and extensive moss at
their bases. In Zoar Valley we found that these tall slender sycamores can be
older than suggested by their diameters (i.e., up to 190 years or more), so
these OH trees may also be a bit older than expected, perhaps mid/upper-100s.

Next... American beech, likely left unharvested due to its relatively poor
timber value.

1) 122.5' x 7' 7"
2) 125.7' x 5' 9"
3) 120.3' x 6' 8"
4) 123.8' x unmeasured but ~7'
5) 128.1' x 8' 10" x ~80' crown


1) sugar maple 116.6' x 6' 7" (few maples in gorge)
2) tulip tree 140.5' x 5' 3" (others of similar height last fall)
3) red oaks 110.5 x 6' 8", 116.6 x 9' 9" (OG tree), 123.5 x 6' 8"
4) black cherry 120.8' x 5' 6"
5) black birch 101.5' (from below)
6) Black tupelo 101.1' x 5' 6"
7) Red maple 109.0' x 6' 5" (larger of 2 stems)
8) yellow birch 88.2' x 7' 7" (gnarly old tree)

And... recall hemlocks from 11/04 visit:

139.8' x 7' 0" middle aged, with lower branch stubs
137.7' across the creek and uphill
140.1' BIG tree, but across the creek
143.7' x 9' 7" sticks out, probably the reported 160-footer
144.7' x 12' 0" virtually no taper, HUGE mass of wood!

Current Rucker Index for Hocking Hills State Park, OH:

Sycamore 151'
Hemlock 144.7'
Tulip 140.5'
Beech 128.1'
NRO 123.5'
Cherry 120.8'
Sugar maple 116.6'
Red maple 109.0'
Black birch 101.5'
Black tupelo 101.1'

RI = 123.68'

More to come, including pictures from this trip for ENTS Gallery.

RE: More Hocking Hills, OH   Will Blozan
  Apr 03, 2005 04:09 PDT 

Excellent, Tom! I find it very interesting that tuliptree does not dominate
the Rucker Index. Perhaps it begins to lose dominance northward to other
species that may perform (relatively) better at northerly latitudes.

Will B
RE: More Hocking Hills, OH   tpdig-@ysu.edu
  Apr 03, 2005 13:21 PDT 


Yes, definitely a surprise that tulip does not hold its own with sycamore and/or
hemlock. It might also be a logging issue - the only old tulips I've yet found
have bole defects or are way up on precipitous slopes. The tall ones all look
<100 years old.

RE: More Hocking Hills, OH   Robert Leverett
  Apr 04, 2005 07:53 PDT 

Will, Tom, et al:

Whatever the explanation for the tuliptree playing second fiddle to
the sycamore and hemlock at Hocking Hills, I doubt that it is latitude.
The tuliptree is king of the woods in Zoar Valley and Green Lake State
Park, both in NY - locations of higher latitude than Ohio. It is also
king of the woods at the Vanderbilt Estate on the Hudson. Even as a
young tree, it surpasses all other species in Monica's woods, Florence,
MA, at only 7.5 miles from the species's northeastern most extension.

   It is great to see more Rucker indices developed for areas that
previously we have hardly touched. I look forward to seeing more
coverage for Arkansas and Missouri. I would also love to see data from
the floodplain areas of Indiana and Illinois, especially for silver
maple and cottonwood. An east-west portrayal for the fertile river
valley's especially interests me.

RE: More Hocking Hills, OH   Neil Pederson
  Apr 04, 2005 09:04 PDT 

How close to a Great Lake is Hocking Hills 
versus Zoar Valley and Green Lakes? A common
geographic theme for Zoar, Green Lake and the
Vanderbilt Estate is that they are within a
climate influenced by a large body of water,
which should moderate temperature extremes and
increase the moisture supply. That might cloud
the latitude relationship, if there is one.

Would Hocking hills be within this lake effect
belt or might it be in a somewhat more
continental climate?

Lake Effect intro: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/buf/lakeffect/lakeintro.html