Schalls Gap:  Oldest Living Eastern Hemlock?   Ernie Ostuno
  Aug 18, 2007 17:11 PDT 

Last Wednesday, August 14 I revisited Schall's Gap near State College,
Pennsylvania. There is a small stand of original forest there that I had
seen several years ago. One of the hemlocks had been recently cored at
that time and found to have 540 growth rings:

Has anyone heard of similar ages for currently living eastern hemlocks?
The reason I ask this is that the site is now infested with adelgids and
I fear that this tree may be on the decline soon. It still has lots of
foliage at this time (I will be sending pics to Ed soon to be posted on
the web). Since the eastern hemlock is the state tree of PA and since
this could be the oldest one known to be living, I'd like to make a push
with the PA DNR (it is on state forest land) for them to help save this
tree and the surrounding hemlocks ASAP.

Back to Ernie
  Aug 19, 2007 07:48 PDT 

   There are quite a few hemlock datings that range between 500 and about 540 years. There are several in New England, a number in Pennsylvania, a number in the southern Appalachians, and a number in the Porcupine Mountains in MI. Above the abive cited age range, I'm unsure. Neil Pederson would be the best source of information on the oldest hemlocks. Charlie Cogbill, an infrequent visitor to this email list, also tracks maximum species ages. If he's lurking around, maybe he'll weigh in.

    At one point a hemlock in PA was cited as 988 years. There has been controversy over the method used to ring count. Ricketts Glen in PA has hemlocks over 500 years old and perhaps over 600. I'm personally confident that the hemlocks make it to the high fives or low sixes. Beyond that, I don't know.

Re: Oldest Living Eastern Hemlock?   neil
  Aug 19, 2007 20:11 PDT 


 The oldest, well-documented eastern hemlock through dendrochronology is
555 yrs It was cored by Ed Cook more than 20 yrs ago. Like Bob says,
there are many ages in the literature. Ed Cook and his crew have cored
hundreds of T. canadensis from AL to Nova Scotia and never broke 600
yrs. I'd bet there is a 600 yr old hemlock out there, but the inability
to find one more than 600 makes one scratch one's head over reported
ages of 800, 900+ yrs. See, Ed is good. He often can find the oldest
tree in a stand and has cored a few of the oldest individuals for many
species in the east.

 Anyhow, 540 makes it tied for 2nd oldest documented.

RE: Oldest Living Eastern Hemlock?   Anthony Kelly
  Aug 20, 2007 10:09 PDT 


I am really sorry to hear that the Schall's Gap site is now infested
with adelgids. I hope that your efforts to get the state to take action
to save at least that oldest tree are successful. From what I
understand the Alan Seeger area is also now infested. I would suppose
then that Detweiler Run must be infested, too. I was hoping to visit
that site a couple months ago while I was in that area, but time didn't

This fall I am planning to go to Schall's Gap and a few of the other
Central PA sites that you reported on over the years. I know where Penn
State's Rock Springs ag facility is, but I'll eventually have to get
some more precise directions to the old growth itself.

Memorial Day weekend I visited the Forest H. Duttlinger site in northern
Clinton County, PA. Still no sign of the Adelgids there. You reported
about four or so years ago either that there was no sign of beech bark
disease or that there was little of it (I forget which exactly). I'm
now sorry to report that most of the beeches at that site are either
dead or dying of that disease. I'll have to get back to my notebooks
and make a fuller report on that visit. I spent two days exploring and
measuring in and around that ~100 acre site.

If you know when you'll back in Central PA visiting old growth areas,
and would like some company, let me know.

Anthony Kelly

Back to Anthony Kelly    Ernie Ostuno
   Aug 21, 2007 16:01 PDT 


Schall's gap is very easy to get to. In fact, it's a bit too easy
because some locals like to hang out there and make campfires, etc.
among the old trees. It's only a 5-10 minute hike from the edge of the
field of the Rock Springs site. In fact, you can see the tops of the old
hemlocks from PA Route 45. I'd like to lobby the PA DNCR to not only
save those hemlocks from the adelgid, but to also declare it a natural
area (it lies within the Rothrock State Forest). It is every bit as
impressive as Alan Seeger and much more accessible. To get there, start
with this map:

Go down to the end of Main Street and park in the field up the slope
past all the buildings that they use for Ag Progress Days (just north of
the composting square shown on the map). Then follow the trail off into
the woods and bear left onto an unmarked trail that follows the creek up
into the water gap. You'll have to climb over some fallen logs, but just
keep on for a few minutes and you will come to some shaggy barked
hardwoods and then the big hemlocks. The creek splits into a north and
south branch with big hemlocks in the ravines of each branch. The 540
year old tree is in a stand on the south side of where the two branches
come together. It is not impressively large but you will notice some
tell tale signs of great age: areas of moss on the trunk and the faded
rusty reddish-brown shaggy bark. For reference, the two hemlocks just
upslope from it have curved trunks.

Oh and if you go in the fall, be aware that the area is open to hunting:

Glad to hear you made it up to Dutlinger NA. Now that is one place that
IS hard to get to. I was there in July, 1999 and the beech trees were
doing fine at that point. Sad to hear of their decline. I took a some
video of the trees back then. I will have to transfer it to digital and
post it on the web.

I hope to visit Lebo Red Pine NA at some point this fall, maybe in
November. It's one of the last old growth natural areas I haven't yet
been to in central PA.