More from the Ellicott Rock Wilderness   Will Blozan
  Jun 01, 2005 15:46 PDT 
Sunday I explored along Indian Camp Branch which flows south out of NC into
SC within the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area. I stayed within the SC portion
which eventually flows into the East Fork of the Chattooga River at the
Walhalla State Fish Hatchery. I surveyed this drainage in 1995 as part of an
old-growth mapping project.
rhodo_laurel thicketa.jpg (88373 bytes)

11' pine and rhodo-laurel thicket

The terrain is quite flat and gentle for much of the drainage, with a
hemlock/heath "bog" forest thickly lining the banks. Huge rosebay
rhododendron and mountain laurel line the stream, with large specimens of
American holly, witch-hazel and mountain holly present. Most of the "flats"
have been cut over, but mature second-growth forests of white pine and pitch
pine ~130 years old are striking. Relic stands of sub-xeric oak forest
exceed 300 years in age, with blackgum, tuliptree, and eastern hemlock
exceeding 400 years. Relic old-growth trees and patches of older forest
provide some diversity from the straight stems of the newer growth. In fact,
a nearly unbroken riparian corridor of "old-growth" lines the stream banks,
with ancient white pine and hemlock dominating. Many are quite large, and
white pine without a doubt exceeds 300 years in age. Another evergreen,
American holly, also exceeds 300 years in age per a core sample I took in
1995. If this tree is still alive it is 343 years old at 4.5 feet. From what
I recall, it had a carving still visible in the bark that had the date
"1865" in it. A trail cut chestnut oak had no less than 350 rings about 20'
from the base. However, aside from white pine and some "shrub" species, no
trees were huge even though they are ancient. Soils are poor and sandy, and
the high rainfall may in fact leach any nutrients out before assimilation.

Ancient sourwood bark

tall_pitch_pinea.jpg (65364 bytes)

Tall pitch pine

I was primarily hunting for a huge white pine Michael Davie and I found in
1995 or 1996. We struggled with a tape drag and clinometer
cross-triangulation in the thick rhododendron, and I have wanted to return
to laser it since it is close to a state champion in points. We put the
height at 154' after much rhodo-wrestling, a number quite respectable for
such an ancient tree. Well, I found the tree still alive and kicking, an
ANCIENT remnant of what must have been a very impressive pine grove years
ago. The top was extremely gnarly and weather-beaten, but a solid laser shot
determined its height to be 151.5'. Supported by a trunk 11'8" in girth, it
is a most imposing tree as it has virtually no taper and a very thick crown
of massive limbs and extreme gnarl factor. However, a younger tree upstream
slightly out-points this tree.

151_5_ancient_pinea.jpg (56474 bytes)

11'8 inch X 151.5' ancient pine

I did confirm one white pine in the 12' X 150' class, a tree I reported on
last spring that has since grown. This young, vigorous tree is now 12'1" in
girth and 150.4' tall. I found many white pines over 10' in girth and 140'+.
This is a grove to watch as it has dense stocking and wilderness protection.
As the hemlocks die off the pines ought to have more resources and seriously
"bulk-up". The hemlock woolly adelgid is so thick in there that trees up to
three inches in diameter are entirely covered EVEN ON THE BARK.

150_white_pinea.jpg (62534 bytes) 

12' 1 inch X 150' white pine

got_adelgida.jpg (43909 bytes) 

Got adelgid!

I measured a few other trees, none of which were exceptional except for the
mountain laurel, which at 75 points (32" X 36' X 27') is a potential new SC
State Record. I don't know how it ranks in height but I measured it because
it looked tall. 

ancient_mountain_laurela.jpg (58085 bytes)

Ancient mountain laurel

old_rhododendrona.jpg (68495 bytes) 

Old rhododendron

Unfortunately, one of the huge pitch pines I wanted to
measure had recently fallen. It turns out I passed by many new state
champion witch-hazels but I did not have my state list so I was not aware of
it. One of the pitch pines I reported on last year has grown slightly (101"
X 130' X 28'), and is likely a SC State Co-Champion at 240 points. None of
the big white pines out-point the tall one I reported on in February along
the Chattooga River.

huge_fallen_pitch_pinea.jpg (63103 bytes)

Huge fallen pitch pine

One of the coolest trees I saw was a "serpentine tsuga" (as in snake, not
rock). It was a hemlock that had repeatedly fallen and leaned over in a
semi-circular manner, but still had a top growing upwards. About 40' was
lying on the ground and the tree was about 40' tall. I'll send a photo to
the ENTS website- way cool!

serpentine_tsugaa.jpg (77848 bytes)

Serpentine tsuga

serpentin_ tsuga2a.jpg (68987 bytes)

Serpentine tsuga 2

hemlock_fungusa.jpg (30056 bytes)

Hemlock Varnish Shelf Fungus (Ganoderma tsugae)

Some other trees:

Pitch pine
6'2"       X          131.9'

White pine
9'10"     X          152.4'
10'5"     X          162.2'
11'4"     X          147.2'
11'0"     X          137.7'
11'5"     X          152.4'
10'2"     X          157.5'
9'2"       X          148.2'

Will Blozan 5/29/2005