Middelton Oak Project, Charleston, SC

Feb 21, 2004


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Photo by Will Blozan


100_0453a.jpg (108364 bytes) Robert Van Pelt, author of "Forest Giants of the Pacific Coast"  up in the Middleton doing what he loves best. 

Photo by Randy Cyr

will.jpg (44502 bytes) Will Blozan, arborist, President  and cofounder of ENTS   is photographing an American alligator within just a few feet! 

Photo by Randy Cyr

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Overview of the Middleton Oak.- photo by Will Blozan

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Overview of the Middleton Oak.- photo by Will Blozan


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Will Blozan among the Spanish Moss - photo by Randy Cyr

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Will Blozan

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I am now back in the cool and cloudy (just like a good IPA) Pacific Northwest after spending a week with Will and his wonderful family. The arboreal highlights were many, but of course you will want to hear about the two climbs.

Two weeks ago I thought that The Senator held a supreme position in the East as far as volume was concerned. I figured that the largest of the Smokies Liriodendrons would be close to 3K and that the Middleton Oak would come in somewhere around 2K.

Boy was I wrong!

Although I have measured wood volume on over 2000 trees and branch volume on 136 trees, these were largely conifers and the ones that weren’t were relatively small or tall Eucalypts. My branch-trunk measuring protocol was developed on the world’s most complex trees, so I was confident it would adapt easily to these trees.

Middleton Oak
Three cheers to Randy for organizing the  Middleton Oak climb! Setting up the permissions and accommodations was fantastic - all we had to do was focus on the tree. Appalachian Arborists climbers Will Blozan, Ed Coyle, and Brian Hinshaw are excellent climbers who were easily able to respond to the trees’ architectural challenges in order to collect the needed data.

Overall, four people spent 8 hours in the tree measuring branch segments and branches. Besides the 3-D structural data set, a footprint map was made (2-D cross-sectional diagram) of the base, BH, and at 6.75 feet. A crown projection map was also made. Originally estimates on foliar and epiphytic biomass were going to be made, but this would have more than doubled the workload so it was scrapped. 

Sag-Branch Tulip
Will chose this tree because the massive crown – unsurpassed in his opinion.  There may be other trees of this species that may rival the wood volume (larger trunk, smaller crown), but this was a great one to start with. This tree also required 8 hours in the tree, but for three climbers (Will, Ed, and myself).  Added to that were 8 miles of trail, the last one after dark.

Summary Stats
Cautionary note: The numbers presented below are PRELIMINARY. The final 3-D model will modify these into a final form to include branch basal taper which the numbers below do not reflect. This aspect will take me a few weeks to complete. I wanted to post these initial numbers to start a discussion. The branch volume estimates account for all wood in the tree larger than 1.5 inches thick. Very small branches and twigs are not included.

  Middleton Oak Sag-Branch Tulip
Height 67.4  167.7
DBH 10.44 7.08
Crown Spread 118 101
Wood Volume  (cubic feet):  
Main Trunk 970 2,430
Branches 3,850 1,560
Total  4,820 3,990
Linear path length of wood over 1.5 inches (ft)
  2,730  2,360

Needless to say, I must complete revise my thoughts on Eastern trees. When first seeing these numbers, I was both excited and confused. If the greatest of Tulips can’t beat this Oak, what can? A Sycamore? A Cherrybark? Another Live oak? To be fair the estimates on the Senator are crude and do not include branches.

We have our work cut out for us!!!


Sag Branch Tulip Climb
Middleton Oak Climb
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Randy Cyr, Will Blozan, Bob Van Pelt and Ed Coyle
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Ascending stitch with Brian Hinshaw - photo by Will Blozan

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Brian Hinshaw


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Will Blozan and Ed Coyle

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Spanish Moss w/ Ed Coyle - photo by Will Blozan

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Will Blozan, Ed Coyle, Brian Hinshaw, Dr. Bob Van Pelt,  Guy Mullier, and Randy Cyr 

A full accounting of the project is available in the Field Trip Section of the website:  Middleton Oak Project