Holden Arboretum, Ohio    Edward Frank
   Sep 20, 2007 15:51 PDT 


On Friday August 31, 2007, Carl Harting and I (Ed Frank) visited
the Holden Arboretum just east of Cleveland, Ohio. Mary Byrd Davis
in her book "Old Growth in the East - a Survey" suggests that there
is perhaps 40 acres of old-growth forest in the arboretum property,
that had been selectively cut sometime in the past. The trip was
put together on a short notice given that Carl was working long
hours and in the middle of moving from one house to another.

Various website describe the arboretum: "The Holden Arboretum, in
Kirtland, Ohio, USA, is one of the largest arboretums and botanical
gardens in the United States, with over 3,500 acres (1,376 ha), 600
acres (243 ha) of which are devoted to collections and gardens."

Of the 3,500 acres, nearly 3,000 acres are natural areas. "Approximately
80 percent of Holden’s natural areas are woodland; 15 percent are
meadows; and the remaining five percent are
wetlands, streams, river, ponds or lakes. Holden is blessed with
abundant natural resources that range from the unique land itself
to the hundreds of native plant, animal and insect species that
live within these lands. For the past 75 years The Holden Arboretum
has been acquiring land in order to protect these natural
resources. Unfortunately, today, it is not enough to just own the
land to protect its natural biodiversity; active management is
needed." "Holden is home to two National Natural History Landmarks,
accessed by guided hikes, and is Midwest representative for The
Center for Plant Conservation."

Given the short notice I wrote an email to a likely looking name on
the staff list on their website http://www.holdenarb.org and
received a reply from Dawn Gerlica, Field Botanist at the
arboretum. I explained that Carl and I were members of ENTS and
were interested in seeing and measuring old and big trees on the
arboretum property. I mentioned the Mary Byrd Davis reference and
provided a link to our tree measuring guidelines document.

Dawn explained that she had have set out permanent plots and
surveyed all of the natural areas. "I can easily show you at least
two sites where there are general big trees - Bole Woods and
Corning Woods. Apparently Corning Woods is the area referred to in
Mary Byrd Davis' book. My supervisor is the one who talked to Ms.
Davis and led her around here. Unfortunately he is on vacation on
Friday or her would offer to take you around. Little Mountain has
some scattered ~300 year old white pines and and hemlocks and I
might be able to get you to see some of those, but it's nowhere
near the other areas. Many of the big trees that are my favorites
are single trees scattered here or there and I can't get you to all
of those right now. I'm not sure they'd all qualify anyway because
although they are huge and old, they are often 'wolf trees' -
originally open grown and with several main stems instead of one so
their height may be compromised." I told her big "wolf" tree would
be excellent to see along with the other areas she suggested.

In a later email she noted, "The Holden Arboretum is 3500 acres of
land and less than 900 of that is the open grounds where normal
visitors can go without a guide - either in gardens or in natural
areas. Most of our big trees are in closed natural areas - places
that are inaccessible to visitors without a guide either because
the terrain or the community itself makes the journey more risky
for injury, or because the area is rare or fragile in some way and
too many visitors can endanger that habitat. Some of our big trees
are in public areas, but many are hidden away where no one is
supposed to get to them without a guide." She also provided info
on where to find some trees in areas open to the general public.

We agreed the best use of our time would be to go with her to areas
normally closed, and to try to get an overview of the properties.
Carl and I arrived late Friday morning and ask for dawn at the
visitors center. In a few minutes she stopped down, we picked up
our gear and she took up to the office building. We two other
people who would also be accompanying us on the excursion -
Jennifer Hilmer, Land Steward in charge of invasive plant control 
http://www.holdenarb.org/Press%20room/interviews.htm  and Gary
Tabaj, a long time seasonal employee involved in the invasives
program. Dawn had printed out a large scale air photo for us with
the various land classification information overlain on it prior to
our arrival. Soon we all piled into an arboretum pick-up truck and
headed off to look at trees. Apparently they had checked out the
ENTS website and Tree Measuring Guidelines - Jennifer told us that
when she saw it her reaction was "Wow! these guys are serious." The
arboretum does have tree documentation program, but it generally
deals with girths rather than tree heights. They even have a kit
for use in children's activities in which they use a tape and
clinometer to measure tree heights. (I would rather they used the
stick method as it is overall better mechanically).

Dawn said that people are visiting the Arboretum all the time to see
various collections, events, or flower displays, but that it was
rare that someone was coming the the arboretum to actually see

DSCN0881b.JPG (108896 bytes) DSCN0882b.JPG (93593 bytes)
 Black Walnut

Our first stop was an unscheduled one  to measure a large Black Walnut 
tree. The tree had a girth of 11.2 feet, and a height of at least 126.9 feet. 
The height 1sn't very good. The canopy was very thick and we could not
get a good top. I explained the basics of how we were doing the
measurements, the directional error, etc. 

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Large Red Oak wolf tree - Greg Trabaj, Carl Harting, Jennifer Hilmer, and Dawn Gerlica

Then onward to look at an oak tree. We parked along the road and
headed off into the woods. This was a recently acquired property along
the boundaries of the arboretum. The forest floor was was a patchwork
of invasive plants and barren ground under the canopy. Present included
multiflora roses, garlic mustard, Japanese barberry, even and holly
among others. The litter was gone on much of the area. it looked as if
the area had been washed by a recent flood, but more likely it
represented an earthworm invasion front. The idea ws spoken aloud by
Gary Tabaj, but was what Carl and I were thinking after reading many
posts, and seeing presentations by Lee Frelich. We hiked back into the
woods and up along a small drainage to a magnificent old wolf-tree of a
red oak. It was gnarled, with a thick trunk, and low thick branches,
definitely it had grown along a field boundary before the field around
it had grown into the younger forest around us. We tried but could not
get a good shot of the top from anywhere, but resigned ourselves to
shooting up from underneath to get a feel for the height of the tree.
This wasn't a very impressive showing of our tree measuring
capabilities, but given the short time available, we could not hunt for
long at a single tree looking for a workable shot of the top before we
had to move onto a new location. On the way out Carl and I paused
briefly to look a a big cucumber tree alongside the trail. It was
easily over 110 feet tall. Back at the truck Gary was listening to me
and Carl explain about the cucumber tree in stereo. We were outside and
I was telling him it was a big tree and that the tallest in PA was a
131 foot high specimen at McConnell's Mill, while Carl was simultaneously
telling Dawn and Jennifer the same thing in virtually the same words.

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 Large Pine with a bent top in Little Mountain Area

The next area we were headed to was Little Mountain which Dawn
 said had some scattered ~300 year old white pines and and
hemlocks. This was a resort spot in the late 1800's to early
1900's for the rich and famous, including a few presidents.  At the 
Little Mountain Resort. Most buildings are all still there, the paths are 
still there, but it is no longer open. Found along the trails are plaques 
noting locations of a former church, and of activities that once took place 
there. We followed a horse trail to look for some large white pines and 
hemlocks. Several white pines and hemlocks were measured but none 
were exceptionally tall or large. They were nice trees anyway.

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 Beech with "carvings" and a large sugar maple to the right in Corning Woods Area
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The final goal for the day was Corning Woods. Dawn wrote in an earlier
email, "Corning Woods is a closed natural area only because there is no
parking near it and no trail that will get you there from any of our
other property. I can show you that and the trails there that the
neighbors have built on our property. It's easy walking, but you have
to park on the side of the road and I think we can get you a pass to put
in your window so no one will bother you." We drove along the outskirts
of the arboretum and looked at some f the development encroaching on the
area. Occasional glimpses of Lake Erie could be seen off in the
distance to te north. There is a slow but steady rise from lake level
to the level here at Kirkland gaining perhaps 1,400 feet in seven or
eight miles.

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Large Oak in Corning Woods, Dawn Gerlica, Carl Harting, and Greg Tabaj

Corning Woods was completely different in character. The woods were not
overrun by invasives but had a natural character. Immediately off the
road were big oak trees - chestnut oaks, red oaks, and white oaks. The
area also had large beech trees. Overall I would characterize the area
as dominated by oaks and beech. Other species present included American
Elm, Sassafras, Black Gum, Sugar Maple all large in size. Several other
species were represented by smaller specimens. It is a beautiful patch
of old growth forest consisting of 5 to 10 acres of large trees. There
is much more to measure and document in this small patch of woods.

From here we returned to our vehicle, and prepared to head home. I gave
out a couple printouts of our Tree measuring guidelines and thanked them
for their hospitality, and promised we would be back. Carl and I
wondered about the parking area and nearby grounds. Carl was not very
good at identifying various Chinese Oaks, but otherwise did a fine job
of identifying the trees planted around the lot.

Carl and many of the others are better measurers than I am. I am not
saying that my measurements are bad. My figures are right on the money,
but my notes are always a mess. I find myself when out in the woods
thinking about taking photographs. I am exploring the woods and
enjoying the moment. I am hugging a a big sassafras to see how big it
is. I am stopping to look at a toadstool. I am afraid I lack the focus
others seem to have to concentrate on measuring trees when I am out
walking about. When I do measure, the measurements are fine, but
sometimes, I forget to measure.

I will post the measurements for the trees when Carl and I get a chance
to consolidate measurement information (Basically that means I will copy
Carl's information to augment my pitiful few measurements).

Ed Frank

RE: Holden Arboretum, Ohio   Carl Harting
  Sep 21, 2007 13:35 PDT 

Ed,   Here are the numbers I have for Holden...   

*Black Walnut  11.2   126.9 
White Oak  13.2   89.3 
White Pine  7.8   120.6 
White Pine  8.7   121.4 
*Black Cherry  9.0   104.0 
*White Pine  11.0   129.0 
*Hemlock  9.95  113.0 
*N Red Oak  12.0   96.5 from below 
*Am Beech  6.5  92.8 
*Black Gum  8.3   101 from below 
*White oak  14.0  101 from below 
*Sugar Maple  10.4   102.7 
Am Beech  11.7  84.4   

Unfortunately I only have 9 species by my count.  I have a CBH for a white ash (9.9) but no height.  I'm not happy with the heights shot from below (especially with 2 coming in at 101) but I guess we'll have to use them for now.   Rucker Index (9 species) - 107.4 

[The only additional numbers I have are for a hemlock in the Little Mountain area:   9.5 cbh
and 102.4 feet tall.  There were a few other species that went over 100 feet including cucumbertree and chestnut oak - Edward Frank]

RE: Holden Arboretum, Ohio   gary-@bellsouth.net
  Sep 21, 2007 13:35 PDT 


I don't know if they have old growth, but another Ohio arboretum I
have heard about for years is Dawes in Newark, Ohio.

Also, don't know if you guys like to do cemetaries :), but Spring Hill
(or something like that) in Cincinnati is supposed to have some big

Gary S.
Re: Holden Arboretum, Ohio   Randy Brown
  Sep 21, 2007 15:40 PDT 

Dawes has a plot of decent second growth, and some older, open grown
trees scattered about.
A few white oaks ~ 4dbh and maybe 80' tall, but nothing I judge as
particularly impressive height and girth wise.

On the plus side the grounds are beautifully landscaped, with lots of
rhodo bushes and other flowering plants.
They also have a nice japanese garden, a lot of exotic tries you
won't see day to day. So it's definitely worth a
visit, but not because of the big trees.
Re: Holden Arboretum, Ohio   neil
  Sep 22, 2007 13:27 PDT 

Nice job Ed & Carl,

If you make it back there, please try to get to Stebbin's Gulch. More
than twenty yrs ago, Ed Cook and others cored the chestnut oak. They,
the trees not Ed & others, were very old - 300 to very close to 400 yrs!
And, they were growing very well at that time; again, the trees.

I tried to get permission to re-sample those trees during my
dissertation, but was denied by the new director of the Arboretum at the
time. I was/am totally bummed. It'd be a great follow up. Maybe they
will have changed their minds about coring over the last few yrs?