I was reading through Colby Rucker's list of big trees by State
preparation for the trip to Pennsylvania for the Cook Forest
was interested in West Virginia since we have almost no tree
data from the
entire state, aside from Cathedral State Park. I came across
description of the Webster Springs Sycamore, a massive tree
listed as the
"largest tree in WV" and the "largest sycamore in
the World". Colby also
inferred that based on wood volume, it may be "one of the
largest trees in
the east". Curious, I proposed to my travel mates (Jess
Riddle and Ron
Busch) that we try to find it and take measurements. On our way
Cook we found the tree.
WV Snow Load
We were impressed that there was actually a brochure (titled
Sycamore") about the tree in the West Virginia Welcome
Center off the
interstate. The photos were impressive and the directions easy
(even though the map indicated that the roads were straight!).
though blinding snow and hill after hill of nauseating twists,
we arrived at
the cute town of Webster Springs, WV. The brochure map gave
directions up a
dirt road along the Back Fork of the Elk River. The road ended
turn-around with a suspension bridge over the river and several
signs. The "Sycamore Park" had a pavilion and
picnic/BBQ areas and a sign
with the following information on it:
Total height 139'
Height to forks 86.5'
Approximate age 500
Hemlock in forks 7.4'
Crown spread 100.1'
Overall, the information was quite accurate, but the epiphytic
dead. The girth listed above was taken at 4.5' upslope, and the
girth was substantially bigger. Here are the numbers we
Total height 144.3'
Circumference (mid) 28.7'
Height to forks 78.3'
Approximate age WHO
Hemlock in forks Dead
Crown spread 102'
AF Points= 514
This is the first eastern single-stemmed hardwood ENTS has
verified to over
500 big tree points as far as I can recall. I do not know the
some of the GA live oaks, though. Only bald cypress (the Senator
one) beats it. Perhaps cherrybark has a slim chance of reaching
somewhere, but sycamore may be the only eastern hardwood capable
of 500 big
Webster Sycamore - View Up the trunk
Webster Sycamore from across the stream
What was so surprising was that this tree is a forest grown
specimen, but it
was not in a floodplain forest. In fact, it was in a mountain
cove forest at
~1800' elevation in a cove hardwood forest. Red elm, basswood,
hickory, umbrella magnolia, and tuliptree accompany the tree
growing out of a rich bed of wildflowers. I suspect the soil is
basic in acidity and may be limestone derived.
Webster Sycamore with Jess at base
Webster Sycamore sideslope view
We took numerous girth measurements and rangefinder girths at
on the trunk to obtain an estimate of volume. Jess and I
that it would be close to 3000ft3. We were not far off, as a
figure of 3009
ft3 was obtained by entering the numbers into a spreadsheet. The
the trunk just below the first limbs was 19.1 feet in girth at a
60'. The point of breakage (78') - which was a huge portion of
was still over 13' in girth. The tree was likely close to 3500
breakage- if the top was intact. Currently, the crown is
represented by just
four limbs (see photo). Some of these limbs are tentatively
decayed wood with no living bark above them. Height in its prime
View through the trunk
Will inside the trunk cavity
I feel this tree, with its tentative perch and strong lean on a
of wood, should be climbed and mapped before it fails. It is
truly a massive
specimen- joining the ranks with tuliptree as a forest giant.
surpass the volume of the Sunderland Sycamore? Any other big
Sounds like a worthwhile project to me!
and Jess at base
UTM 17 556093E 4263469N, 1800' Elevation