Cook Forest Cucumber Tree



A large cucumber tree located in Cook Forest near the intersection of the Longfellow and Red Eft trails fell last winter.  Dale Luthringer with foresight ask the maintenance people to cut a "cookie"  - a cross-section of the trunk - as far down the tree as possible above the hollow and decaying base of the tree.  

cucumber_pan2a.jpg (172805 bytes)

Pan of fallen Cucumber tree in Cook Forest State Park- photo by Ed Frank

The tree was very old when it fell.  Dale plans to sand the cross-section and do a detailed ring count this winter.  In addition he plans to have the age confirmed by an expert in dendrochronology.  This project of Dale's has my full support and that of ENTS as a whole.  I have been collecting related information about the tree before and after it fell for incorporation into Dale Luthringer's research results.  The goal is to create a more detailed portrayal of this particular cucumber tree.

record_cuke-stump1.jpg (38071 bytes)
Record cucumber tree Stump as seen during the spring of 2005 - 
photo submitted by Will Blozan 

The tree was first measured in 1997 by Dr, Bob Van Pelt. The most recent measurement prior to its fall was taken on 03/07/02 using ENTS laser-clinometer techniques by Dale Luthringer.  The tree measured 11.6 feet cbh, and 111.2 feet in height. Dale has reported the tree began to lean a couple of years ago and was held aloft by neighboring pine trees - still alive, but already subject to trunk failure.  Last winter it finally fell.  People who attended the spring ENTS rendezvous at Cook Forest had the chance to see the tree earlier this spring.


Ed Frank  Nov 24, 2005

Cook Forest cucumber tree   Edward Frank
  Nov 21, 2005 07:29 PST 

Friday I went to Cook Forest top look at the cucumber cookie Dale had
collected from a large fallen Cucumber Tree. The tree is the same one
pictured in a photo by Will Blozan from the spring Rendezvous. 

Dale had suggested in other communications that he tree was in excess of 
300 years old. Neil Pederson from EKU posted on the list last week "The oldest
cucumber tree to date that I am familiar with is one I cored in central
Virginia. Myvonwynn Hopton and I dated it to 348 years. This was cored back
in 2003. So, it will be 350 years old today if it is still alive." Based
upon looking at the tightness of the rings, the size of the cookie, and some
preliminary counting I am convinced the tree is in excess of the 350 year
age. The cookie still needs to be sanded and polished, but that is Dale's
plan for later this winter and I will leave that to him. I would also like
to measure the widths of the individual rings to document the history of the

cucumber01.jpg (122728 bytes) 
Photo of the fallen cucumber tree - photo by Ed Frank

Then Dale and I went to look at the fallen tree. It is located near
the intersection of the Longfellow Trail and the Red Eft Trail. He went
back to work and I stayed and measured circumferences/diameters at various
points along the trunk to use to determine the volume of the trunk of the
tree. I also took a number of photos as an initial starting point to
document over time the various stages and organisms involved in the eventual
decay of the fallen giant. It will be interesting if I can return in ten
years and see how the fallen tree has fared over the years.

cucumbertree02r.jpg (153498 bytes)
Fungus growing at the base of the fallen cucumber tree at Cook Forest - photo by Ed Frank

Does anyone have a photograph of the tree prior to its demise? 

That evening Dale and I met up with Monica Jakuc and Bob Leverett for dinner
at the Trails End Restaraunt - even if Bob doesn't remember my name.
Unfortunately I had to work and missed the Saturday measuring fest.

Ed Frank

RE: Cook Forest cucumber tree   Robert Leverett
  Nov 21, 2005 09:48 PST 


   ... Actually, I
was thinking about the age of the cucumber magnolia when I wrote the
e-mail and wondered if we needed to inform Ed Cook at Lamont Doherty
Earth Labs. With Neil Pederson now out in Kentucky, Ed's is the name
that came first to my mind. We do have Dave Orwig at Harvard Forest, and as
Dale has mentioned, Marc Abrams at Penn State. It is a tree that
deserves attention from the best. It also raises interesting questions
about the ages of the oldest of other species in the forest cathedral. I
have heard conflicting numbers on when that forest developed.
Anthony Kelly standing inside the hollow base of a fallen 400+ year old cucumber tree in Cook Forest - photo by Carl Harting Nov 19, 2005

   I'll always be indebted to Ed Cook. He came to Wachusett Mtn in 1996
(I think it was then) at my invitation to look at the oaks and other OG
on that mountain. He immediately recognized the northern red oaks as the
oldest he'd seen in the Northeast. His knowledge is legendary. He was
dating old growth white and chestnut oak along the crest of the Blue
Ridge within spitting distance of the Blue Ridge Parkway when the
Parkway hadn't the slightest idea that they had any old growth beyond 3
or 4 places with big trees. In those days OG was still synonymous with
old trees.

   Another person who might like to know about the age of the cucumber
tree is Charlie Cogbill an ecologist from Vermont and one of the first
ecologists to propose a definition for OG. Charlie tracks maximum
species ages when they have been verified. Charlie is still listed as a
member of the ENTS list although we haven't heard from him in ages.

I would bet that there is a scattering of very old trees in Cook
Forest that predate all the dendro work that has been done to date. What
the distribution would mean, I don't know. But I believe it is there.


RE: Cook Forest cucumber tree
   Nov 21, 2005 07:45 PST 

Thanks again for coming all the way over to Cook Forest. 
cucumber_cookie.jpg (55451 bytes) 
"Cookie" from cucumber tree

That cuke' cross section is impressive. Because the base was hollow the
"cookie" was taken at 22'2" up the trunk from its mid-slope base. I counted 425,
427, and 433 rings, but I need to sand it down better. Maybe I could
get Marc Abrams to take a run down to Cook sometime this winter and take
a better look at it. I have a tough time determining false rings, and
am not sure how prevalent cucumber magnolia are with this phenomena.
Well Ed, you were right, it looks like I was a little too conservative
on my earlier age estimate.

RE: Cook Forest cucumber tree
  Nov 21, 2005 07:50 PST 

Ed Frank,

I've got a slide of that cuke' when it was standing. Next time you're
over, stop by my office and I'll try to drum it up for you so you can
scan it. The state hasn't allowed us to spend money on a decent scanner

Yes, BVP measured it first, but that was back in 1997.

Cucumber Tree ridge  Will Blozan
Tue, 22 Nov 2005

cucumber_ridge.jpg (67129 bytes)


The ridge appears to be a fracture that severed the cambium. The spiral is
just the orientation of the wood fibers in the tree. Continued flexing along
the fracture does not allow the cambium to fuse together again into a
continuous layer across the fracture. Thus, the wound-wood tissue simply
"plows" into its respective counterpart on the other side of the fracture
and builds up a ridge of wood. This can also be seen when a tree tries to
swallow a rock. Sometimes these fractures do close again but the ridge will
remain for many years if not indefinitely. Regardless, the wood is fractured
underneath and trunk failure is likely.


-----Original Message-----
From: Edward Frank 
Sent: Monday, November 21, 2005 10:07 PM
Subject: RE: Cucumber 


What is this ridge that spirals around the fallen cucumber tree? It is 
about 3 inches high and an inch or so thick. See attached photo. Dale 
said I should ask you.


Re: Cook Forest cooks EXCELLENT!   John A. Keslick, Jr.
  Nov 22, 2005 11:16 PST 

If the cuc is not less than 450 increments then just think for a minute.
Now the tree fell and we have a cuc nurse log. Unique!!!!! Imagine this.
It took (just time along) over 450 years to manufacture this nurse log.
What would the cost of a product be if it took over 450 years to
manufacture? I believe this nurse log is unique as well as priceless.


John A. Keslick, Jr.
Re: Cook Forest cooks EXCELLENT!   Neil Pederson
  Nov 22, 2005 12:25 PST 

I was off list for a few days changing my subscription over to my
EKU address and missed the old cucumber discussion.

It'd be awesome if the cucumber tree at Cook forest was more than 400
years. I'm sure they can probably live this long. I will, as usual,
add a cautionary note. Crossdating cucumber trees [as well as
tulip-poplar and sweet birch] to obtain an exact age at coring height
is tough. The ones I've worked with along the eastern US are prone
to forming false rings. Locally absent rings are an occasional
problem, too. Myvonwynn Hopton and I had a heck of a time crossdating
a few cucumber and tulip sites. In fact, we stopped trying to
crossdate a few cucumber trees because of false/missing rings. For
example, one tree had ~18 extra bands on one side of the tree versus
the other. We were not able to determine if missing rings or false
rings caused this difference. It actual age is unknown.

Speaking of cukes, I stumbled on a large one 2'+ dbh [I had no
measuring equipment. I was just out on a pleasure hike], in southern
Kentucky the other day. It is growing in a narrow canyon of supposed
OG. There are some large trees in there that look old. I did find,
however, a small road running halfway up the canyon. Hopefully we'll
get some ages out of this place in the next year.


PS - Bob - Ed Cook did beat me to the oldest chestnut oak stand in
the patch of OG I located by one measly year. That dude is amazing. I
got my revenge, however, a year later when I tied his age for
chestnut oak in a stand he first sampled 20 yrs ago.
Cooks Cucumber Soil Test   John A. Keslick, Jr.
  Nov 22, 2005 12:37 PST 

I tested the soil about the cucumber tree (with the help from Dale) when it
was maintaining a symplast in an effort to understand optimum fertility
levels for this species. The date was 1998.
The soil samples were taken in the upper four inches of the soil where the
mycorrhizae would be and absorption would be taking place. We did not test
inside nurse logs, but plenty of evidence shows that mycorrhizae can be
found within decomposing wood.

At that time these organism, not limited to but including, were present.

Magnolia acuminata 4' dbh est and largest standing found tree at Cook. (
ground cover - eastern hemlock; sugar maple; eco-art nurse logs; lady
ferns; violet; wood sorrel; lots of seedlings; birch; two different ferns;
hairy cut moss; sphagnum moss; rocks.

Soil testing was done at Cornell.
(generally speaking more available elements can be found at nurse logs.)

Our Test results
Lab ID #16922
(Pounds Per Acre PPA) Available

P = 7.4
K = 177
Mg = 149.5
Ca = 1266
AL = 66
Fe = 22.6
Mn = 229.5
Zn = 8.62
NO3-N = 20.41
Cu = 1.7
As you can see, many elements were not tested for.

Organic Matter % = 31.66

Ex acidity = 59.04 (ME / 100)

Salts mmho = 0.25 (mmho / cm)


Cd = 0.98
Cu =7.39
Ni = 8.87
Mn = 1391.15
Co = 7.88
Zn = 168.53
Pb = 98.06
Cr = 15.76
P = 716.02

Moisture Content % 2.497
Nitrogen % = 0.94
Carbon % = 16.7
C:N Ratio 17.76:1

Thats all I have folks. This test was done to better understand what proper
fertilization might be.

I do have other test results for old growth hemlock, white pine and some

John A. Keslick, Jr.

Re: Cooks Cucumber Soil Test   John A. Keslick, Jr.
  Nov 22, 2005 14:31 PST 


About the PPA numbers. I don't want to say it is conclusive, however, I
have tested soil adjacent to nurse logs and then tested along the edge where
material has collected and found that there was an increase in available
essential elements at the nurse log.

I might get myself in trouble here. Let me take a risk.
The P was 7.4 PPA.
Now if I tested soil about 3 PPM at an urban Cucumber tree, maybe the tree
would benefit by the addition of available P? It is sophisticated. But
then what would the dose be?
But we must remember that a bag of fertilizer does not contribute to the
extent of a nurse log and its processes of decomposition.

Maybe if we looked at the organic material content in the area. Organic
Matter % = 31.66

One of the benefits of proper mulching maybe bringing the Organic Matter
closer to 31.66% for cucumber trees?

Two things I forgot to include: pH was 3.81 and the altitude was 1500 -
1800 feet.

Micro elements (not miner, they are anything but miner) such as calcium is
important too. 1266 PPM. We do know that nurse logs provide calcium when
trees need it. So we may want to address calcium problems with composted
wood chips and leaves and nurse logs????
We need more research on optimum fertility level for trees.


John A. Keslick, Jr.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Robert Leverett" 
Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2005 4:27 PM
Subject: RE: Cooks Cucumber Soil Test


Most interesting. Are there any surprises in the PPA numbers below?
Any general conclusions?


Re: Questions to John Keslick
  Nov 23, 2005 09:52 PST 


I think the "true" nurse logs like you describe are far more rare outside of
protected circumstances than most people can imagine. There are exceedingly
rare in parts of the Appalachians with a history of fire.

I think that the perched root systems of old black birch trees that still
retain the shape of the stump they germinated on and grew around is a testimony
to the decomposition process.

Part of what I do for a living involves manufacturing tree stumps but I
enjoy watching the progress of the decomposition process. On my parents farm in
Massachusetts there are massive while pine logs still lying across the brook
as they were when I was a little kid almost 50 years ago and the skeleton of
an old dead chestnut I sat beneath many times as I pondered my future as a
forester has turned into a nearly unrecognizable pile of reddish brown mush.   

Russ Richardson
Re: Cooks Cucumber Soil Test   John A. Keslick, Jr.
  Nov 29, 2005 22:16 PST 

No it is PPA = Pounds Per Acre not PPM

[Editors Note:  An acre of mineral soil 6 to 7 inches deep weighs approximately 2 million
pounds. Therefore, to convert pounds per acre readings to parts per million, divide by 2.]


As of 11-29-2005 my numbers range is as follows.
































I will put together a list of test done and calcium results.



Did I understand your post below as the soil Ca composition near the
Cook cuke' as 1,266 ppm? I'm more used to working with this element in
aquatic environments. If I got this for a reading in any NW PA stream,
I'd probably be thinking on the lines of 'who just dumped lime in the
stream?!'. If this soil Calcium concentration is correct, is this high
for soils? I'd normally expect an overall buffering capacity of the
soils in Cook's conifer stands to be low due to the low soil pH.

Re: Cooks Cucumber Soil Test   John A. Keslick, Jr.
  Nov 30, 2005 17:28 PST 

Results for Calcium

Optimum Soil Test

Allegany National Forest (Hearts Content)     3/4/1997 Hemlock, Pine, white
and beech which had low vitality in the area. Ferns and many nurse logs and
moss to mention some. 3 different sites tested for Ca 290ppa - 410ppa -

- - - - - - - - - -

Allegany National Forest(Tionesta Scenic area) 3/4/1997         Virgin Old
growth blow down. From tornado in 1996 or 1997. In the tornado swath of the
utility trail down the slope to the right. 4 sites tested. Ca 661ppa -
896ppa - 902ppa - 979ppa - 1636ppa.

Allegany National Forest(Tionesta Scenic area) 3/4/1997         Hemlock,
Pine, white and beech which had low vitality in the area. Ferns and many
nurse logs and moss to mention some. This is from the area where the resent
blow down occurred. 2 sites tested for Ca. Ca 570ppa - 1030ppa.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Adirondacks (Paul Smith College) NY. 3 test 9/8/1997

1. Eastern white pine, eastern hemlock and red spruce, primarily conifer -
Ca was 1872ppa.

2. New growth primarily beech and most are root sprouts. Striped maple and
red spruce coming up. The red spruce had waited for an opening and now are
taking off. Primarily Hardwoods - Ca was 2064ppa.

3. Common wood ferns, hemlocks starting back, red spruce, yellow birch,
beech, hemlock, real old growth yellow birch. Many nurse logs. Hobble bush
which is primarily deer food. Shinning Club moss, primarily hardwoods - Ca
was 2712ppa.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Last 40 at Dora Lake (Last 40 acres old growth.). In Minnesota. White pine
and red pine so says the sign; young balsam furs, black spruce (some),
clubmoss (species?).

No date? 1 test Ca was 1783ppa.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Pioneers Mothers Memorial Forest. Hoosier National Forest Paoli Indiana.

1.. White oak, other oak (red or black?), Young Sugar Maples. Ca 2559ppa.
2.. White oak (maturing); shag bark hickories and some maples.. Ca
3.. White oak, (black or red oak?), shag bark hickory; younger maples
understory. Ca 2462ppa.
4.. White oak, shag bark hickory, oak with leaves like chestnut oak but
outer bark looked like white oak and some maples (black or red oak?). Ca
5.. White oak, beeches, understory and over story maples, no shag bark
hickory. Ca 4523ppa.
6.. Beech and maple. Ca 4573ppa.
7.. Black walnut lots of understory and some maples in low area.3.5-4' dia
black walnut. Ca 7417ppa.
8.. Black walnut, tulip poplars in area, yellow popular lots of understory
and some maples in low area.3' dia black walnut. Ca 4817ppa.

Eco-art nurse log test in same area.

Not at E.A. Nurse Log. Ca 3128ppa.

Just under E.A. Nurse Log. Ca 8902ppa.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Spring Mill State Park   - Donaldson's Woods Nature Preserve Virgin Timber
Mitchell Indiana. 10/12/1997

1.. White oak, shag bark hickory, mature tulip poplars and dog wood,
Cornus florida, there was chestnut and chinkopin oak in the preserve. Ca
2.. White oak, shag bark hickory, tulip poplar, understory beech, sugar
maples understory, some dog woods - Cornus florida avg. 1" dbh just a few
producing seeds. Ca 4605ppa.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Joyce Kilmore Wilderness Trails Nantahala National Forest Virgin Old
Growth w/traffic 11/13/1997

1.. Cucumber Magnolia, acuminata; Tulip Poplars - Yellow Poplars 4-5'
dbh.; understory maple coming up; ferns; rock, some understory hemlock. Ca
2.. Tulip Poplars - Yellow Poplars 4-5' dbh.; understory maple, 1 beech,
small hemlocks in understory. Ca 3188ppa.
3.. Mountain Magnolia, (NOTE may be large leaf - PSU) Magnolia Fraseri
averg. 1.5' or smaller dbh but 30-40' tall and clumps with included bark. ;
Rhododendron; hemlock up hill; maples; mountain laurel. Ca 552ppa.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Cook State Forest Park 8/30/1998 Magnolia acuminata 4' dbh est and largest
standing found tree at Cook. ( ground cover - eastern hemlock; sugar maple;

eco-art nurse logs; lady ferns; violet; wood sorrel; lots of seedlings;
birch; two different ferns; hairy cut moss; sphagnum moss; rocks. Ca

calcium levels and tree species   Robyn Darbyshire
  Dec 02, 2005 00:16 PST 

This may have been mentioned somewhere along the line in these posts, so
forgive me if I'm repeating something...(topica only puts ENTS mail in
my inbox sporadically, so I have to read it all briefly online....).

Some tree species, such as dogwood, cedars (Cupressaceae), and hardwoods
in general are known to take up higher amounts of calcium and store (and
recycle) it in their foliage vs. other species. There are several
articles in the literature related to this. It is interesting to take a
look at John's calcium sampling results and compare it to the species
present, and see that this may explain some of the different results on
the different sites.
Re: Cooks Cucumber Soil Test   John A. Keslick, Jr.
  Jan 20, 2006 20:01 PST 

Charlie and Dale

Lets take it one test site at a time.
Dale please replace the record on the soil test with this one. Please let
me know you made the change.

I took ten samples with a teaspoon from the area where the non-woody
absorbing roots were. I mixed the sample in a clean bag and sent in for

Cucumber Tree Site At Cook State Park Forest.

Moisture content               %          2.497

P, available                      mg/Kg    7.4

K, available                      mg/Kg   177

Mg, available                   mg/Kg    149.5

Ca, available                    mg/Kg     1266

Fe, available                    mg/Kg     22.6

Al, available                    mg/Kg     66.0

Mn, available                    mg/Kg    229.5

Zn, available                    mg/Kg     8.62

Cu, available                    mg/Kg     1.7

pH in water                       pH           3.81

Exchange Acidity             coml./kg 59.04

LOI, (Organic Matter)%                  31.66

NO3, available                    mg/Kg    20.41

B, Water soluble                mg/Kg     Not Determined

Soluble salts                       mmho      0.25

Cd, acid-soluble                 mg/Kg     0.98

Cu, acid-soluble                 mg/Kg     7.39

Ni, acid-soluble                 mg/Kg     8.87

Mn, acid-soluble                 mg/Kg    1391.15

Co, acid-soluble                 mg/Kg     7.88

Zn, acid-soluble                 mg/Kg     168.53

Pb, acid-soluble                 mg/Kg      98.06

Cr, acid-soluble                 mg/Kg     15.76

P, acid-soluble                 mg/Kg      716.02

N, total                                 %          0.94

C, total                                 %          16.70