18, 2003 07:45 PST
Last weekend I explored parts of the Alexander Creek drainage,
or as I
sometimes think of the area, the land of pignut hickories. The
flows through the Brevard Fault Zone at the piedmont-blue ridge
in the northwestern corner of South Carolina. In March, I first
the site due to it's proximity, three miles south, to Tamassee
topographic similarities. A 200 foot high escarpment in the
of the watershed provides considerable sheltering to several of
east-aspect coves, but the coves as a whole appear substantially
than the area around Tamassee Knob. White oak, northern red oak,
black oak share dominance over much of the area. Chestnut oak
hickory are abundant in some of the coves and level benches. In
areas along the upper section of the creek black birch,
basswood form the canopy while on the flats farther downstream
replaces the black birch and basswood is less common. Overall,
understory is open, put rosebay rhododendron is abundant on the
section of the creek and sweetshrub and blackberries are locally
The herbaceous layer includes calceophilic species like
verticalla and Viola tripartita, but is generally sparse.
The tall trees are concentrated where the east facing coves meet
escarpment, on a large north-facing bench, and on the stream
the forest service property boundary, but a few tall individuals
scattered throughout the area. The north-facing bench has an
abundance of pignut hickory. The hickories, which probably
around 75% of the basal area, show heavy branching and one
individual displayed annual radial growth of one to 1.5
the past several decades. The hickories listed below are not
to this bench.
Species Cbh Height Comment
Hickory, Pignut 12'6.5" ~126'
Hickory, Pignut 11'3" 133.8
Hickory, Pignut 9'11.5" 134.1'
Hickory, Pignut 11'5" 135.3' Measured on 3/29/03
Hickory, Pignut 12'0" 146.8'
Hickory, Pignut 10'10" 149.4'
Locust, Black 6'5.5" 117.0'
Locust, Black 6'6" 131.5'
Maple, Red 4'6" 113.4'
Maple, Red 5'8" 114.0' Tallest in mountains in state?
Oak, Black 7'10" 127.8'
Oak, Chestnut 6'3.5" 122.1'
Oak, Chestnut 8'0.5" 122.2'
Oak, N Red 10'4" 127.2'
Oak, N Red 9'5.5" 134.1'
Oak, Scarlet 4'4" 118.5' 86:1 H:D
Oak, Scarlet 4'9" 118.9'
Oak, Scarlet 9'6" 119.9' Long spread 80'+
Oak, S Red 9'0" 107.2'
Oak, White 6'6.5" 128.8'
Pine, Virginia 4'8" 101.6'
Sweetgum 6'2" 124.4'
Tupelo, Black 6'8" 103.0' Measured on 3/29/03
I have never visited another area with such a preponderance of
hickories. This situation probably results from a combination of
logging pressure on the hickories and nutrient rich, very well
soils. The red maples are the tallest I've seen in south
Carolina, but I
suspect that the scattered ones in the Congaree are taller and
Chattooga Watershed could support taller individuals. The
were the surprise of the day. All of the tall ones are in flat
the lowest elevations in the site. The H:D ratio of 86:1
noticed for a tuliptree or sycamore, but I never expected
scarlet oak to
be able to compete in an area with the necessary soil fertile to
ratio like that. Two of the scarlet oaks are competing with
The largest one has a smooth bole, large, rounded crown, and may
be one of
the fastest growing individuals of the species I have ever seen.
southern red oak has substantial growing left to do, and was a
surprise. I normally see the species on drier, less fertile,
sites. The Rucker Index for the area now stands at 134.30' with
substantial help from a few richer coves at the north end of the
I didn't visit last week. Those coves contain more giant pignut
and the tallest collection of northern red oaks I know of.