West Virginia foray   Fores-@aol.com
  Mar 27, 2006 05:32 PST 

We had a successful trip into the WV woods on Saturday and Sunday.   Carl and
Tony came down from PA and met with me and Mike Plevich, a forester from
Morgantown, WV to look at some decent trees in Alum Bridge, WV.

I am pretty certain that either Carl or Tony will provide some stats on
trees measured but the tallest red oak in Lewis County was around 145'.

amy_at_widen_poplar.jpg (85953 bytes)

Amy Cimarolli at Widen Poplar

On Sunday, Carl, Tony Mike and myself were led to the Widen poplar in Widen,
WV by Amy Cimarolli who is a conservation ecologist for the Nature
Conservancy in WV. The poplar was over 170' tall.

Sunday was snowy and quite miserable as the trees shed their coating of
slushy snow on everyone.

We were able to get more than ten species at each site so I think that Carl
is going to try to develop a Rucker Index for the sites we visited.

Russ Richardson

West Virginia foray   Carl Harting
  Mar 29, 2006 19:47 PST 

Anthony Kelly and I traveled to West Virginia last Friday March 24th
to meet Russ Richardson and see some of the trees heís been writing 
about. We arrived early Friday afternoon and while waiting for
Russ to get home from work we drove to Cedar Creek State Park and
walked around a hillside in the south central section of the park.
While we didnít measure anything we found some decent tulips and a nice
yellow buckeye along the trail. This walk gave
us a chance to familiarize ourselves with trees that we donít see often
in Pennsylvania. Its not surprising we didnít find any tall trees here,
since according to Russ most of the impressive West Virginia trees are
located on private land. Upon returning to Russí property we got a tour 
from the man himself - let me just say
how jealous I am of his Crummies Creek tree farm! Hundreds of acres of
cove forests with hardly a neighbor in sight. Unbelievable!

Saturday morning we headed out along the stomach churning curves of Rt.
33 to the village of Alum Bridge to a property Russ had marked for
logging about 6 years ago. As we pulled up below the west facing ridge
we could see a large red oak poking out of
he lower forest canopy and an impressive hickory on the top of the
ridge. Joining us here was Mike Plevich, a Natural Resource Specialist
at the Army Training Site Camp Dawson. Mike assisted with tree ID and
location on both Saturday and Sunday. The first
tree we measured was the big red oak which turned out to be
13.9x133.8 (unfortunately not 145 as Russ wrote earlier). It grew in a
cluster of 3 red oaks, the second tallest of which was 11.8x122.4. As
we pushed on up the hillside we measured a couple
tulips along the logging road, the tallest of which was 142.6. After
nearly crawling up the steep hill (Russí dogs climbed up ahead of us and
sat together on a rock to show us how easy it is to climb with 4 feet)
we got to the hickory at the top which
turned out to be a pignut measuring 7.7x132. We moved along the ridge
top to some other big trees Russ remembered, but 2 of the most
impressive (a tulip and chestnut oak) turned out to have died or broken
since his last visit. 

cull_cuke.jpg (82775 bytes)

Russ Richardson, Tony Kelly and Carl Harting at base of 14.0 CBH Cucumber

Walking the timber roads
gave ample evidence of the invasives introduced to the site recently
including Japanese stilt grass and tree of heaven. Tree regeneration
was non-existent under the dense brown cover of dead stilt grass. A
recent gas well access road also destabilized the
hillside and many areas had slumped downhill. Next we drove around to
the far side of the property where we sampled more trees including a
14.0x80+/- cucumber cull and a classic white oak wolf tree at 14.7x99.2.

Alum Bridge, WVA

Species           CBH Height            

N Red Oak      13.9   133.8
N Red Oak      11.8   122.4
Tulip             12.3    132.5
Tulip             12.0    130.9
Tulip              n/a     142.6
Tulip               n/a    137.7
Pignut Hickory   7.7    132.0
White Ash        6.9    120.8
Pignut Hickory   9.4    126.4
Am Beech         7.5    103.3
White Oak        8.4    106.8
Chestnut Oak   10.3   107.7
Am Basswood     5.7   99.7
Sugar Maple      6.2  101.7
Black Oak         n/a   100.5
Tulip                 9.8  118.3
Tulip                n/a   121.6
Shagbark Hick.   4.1    99.8
Bitternut Hick.    6.5  106.7
Tulip                 9.4  114.8
Am Basswood      5.9   85.1
Cucumber           7.1   91.3
Butternut            4.5   65.3
Sycamore            n/a 100.4
tulip                  12.9    127.0
Red Oak             12.3    131.1
Am Basswood       10.2   120.3
Shagbark              6.0   121.5
Black Gum             6.9     91.4
Yellow Buckeye      9.1   106.6
Cucumber             14.0   80+/-
White Oak            14.7    99.2 wolf tree
Am Basswood         7.0   115.8
Black Cherry           7.6   106.7
Hemlock                 n/a   102.4
Black Cherry            3.5   82.2

**Alum Bridge Rucker Index **

Tulip                142.6
N Red Oak         133.8
Pignut Hickory    132.0
Shagbark Hick.   121.5
White Ash          120.8
Am Basswood     120.3
Chestnut Oak     107.7
White Oak         106.8
Black Cherry       106.7
Yellow Buckeye   106.6   
Rucker Index      119.9

Sunday we met Amy Cimarolli, a conservation ecologist with the Nature
Conservancy, who would guide us to the Widen Poplar. After driving a
few miles of logging roads in light snow and fog we descended into a
wide valley stripped on both sides from the river to about the midpoint 
of each ridge. 

stripped_valley.jpg (62025 bytes)

Stripped valley at Widen, W. Va.

While most of the valley
bottom was the typical grass/planted pine mix typical of strip mined
areas, there was a small 5-10 acre area of forest that, while not
untouched from a timber perspective, had been spared by
the coal company to protect the incredible tulip tree growing within.
The Widen Poplar grows near the valley bottom facing west to northwest,
up a small rise from an old building foundation littered with beer
bottles, and nearly surrounded by ATV trails
s. Growing on the edge of the hill the roots of the tree have to be
impacted by the ATVs - some sort of protection needs to be put in place
to save this tree from destruction. Maybe Mike and Amy will be able to
get a partnership together to at least g
some fencing up. There were 2 holes at the bottom of the trunk filled
with cement, so there is some rot present, and the crown had a couple
large branch stubs so the tree was probably taller in the past. We took
numerous height measurements to be sure
of accuracy and eventually decided on 17.7x173.2.

widen_pignut.jpg (60269 bytes)

Widen Pignut 8.6x134.5

Another impressive tree that grows on the edge of the older forest
remnant was a pignut hickory that stood above the canopy and is actually
the first tree you notice as you drive down into the valley. This tree
proved a challenge to measure but after
moving from above and out in the field and using Amyís hand as a laser
target we agreed on 8.6x134.5. After measuring the crown spread, which I
did not record, it comes up only 4 points shy of the champion W.Va.
pignut, but with a more accurate measurement 
of the current champís height this one may come out on top.

widen_base.jpg (86811 bytes)

Base of Widen Poplar

As an additional exercise Mike Plevich measured the height of the Widen
Poplar and the pignut hickory with just his clinometer and a distance
from my rangefinder. From various views the poplar gave him a range
from 166í to 187í with his final answer at 183í. 
The WV register of big trees lists the Widen Poplar at 195í, so
itís only listed 22 feet too high. 

widen_upper.jpg (82035 bytes)

Top of Widen Poplar

The pignut gave an even bigger
range, all on the high side, from 140í to 165í. Mike also measured the
132 ft pignut on Saturday and did much better,
getting 129.8ft. This was a fairly straight tree on level ground.

widen_cbh.jpg (93389 bytes)

Mike Plevich, Russ Richardson, Amy Cimarolli and Tony Kelly at Widen Poplar

Iíll forward some pictures to Ed to put on the website, and Iím sure
Anthony and Russ will have additional comments.

Widen, WVA

Tulip             17.7    173.2 Widen Poplar
Am Beech        8.4   129.0
Am Basswood   5.4   120.5
Sycamore        4.8   113.0
Black Gum        6.7   111.8
Red Maple        5.9   106.5
Am Basswood    5.3   118.4
Sugar Maple      4.8   109.1
Pignut hickory    8.6   134.5
N Red Oak         7.9   113.9
Am Basswood     4.4   116.6
Black Cherry       5.2   110.7 Double
Cucumber          4.1   107.0
White Ash          4.0  106.3
Tulip                 5.6   121.7
Tulip                 6.1   122.2
Hemlock             6.1  109.5

**Widen Rucker Index**

Tulip                  173.2
Pignut Hickory      134.5
Am Beech           129.0
Am Basswood      120.5
Sycamore           113.0
N Red Oak           113.9
Black Gum           111.8
Black Cherry        110.7
Hemlock              109.5
Sugar Maple         109.1

Rucker Index        122.5

Carl Harting, Anthony Kelly and Russ Richardson

Congratulations on the WV foray   dbhg-@comcast.net
  Mar 28-29, 2006 05:10 PST 

That's great news on the Widen tuliptree. We now have tulips in NC, SC, TN, 
and WV over 170 feet tall. I think that's the list. Will or Jess will correct me if 
I'm wrong. But that is simply way cool. Way cool! The oak isn't too shabby either. Congratulations to all of you.

Carl and Anthony,

Congratulations! The two of you should earn a special ENTS tree
measuring award. Not only have you confirmed some incredible West
Virginia trees, but you've also gathered extremely valuable information
on important mis-measured trees. The erroneous 195-foot height for the
Widen tuliptree provides the kind of accounts that lead to reporting
200-foot talle tulips. It is interesting how we are confirming that the
tree can creep up toward 180 feet, but we still haven't confirmed a 180.
I wonder if Lee's hypothesis kicks in here, i.e. height limitations due
possibly to vessel size?



RE:  West Virginia foray   djluth-@pennswoods.net
  Mar 29, 2006 20:38 PST 

Carl, Tony, & Russ,

Great job documenting these trees. The Widen Poplar is a dandy. 17.7ft
CBH x 173.2ft high?! AWESOME !!!!!

I like your hickory and buckeye stats. I get into so very little of
these up here.

Wish I could've been with you guys.

RE: Carl and Anthony Score Big Time   Anthony Kelly
  Apr 01, 2006 15:42 PST 


Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. Thank you for congratulating Carl
and I on our measuring the Widen Poplar. I don't know that a special ENTS
tree measuring award is really in order, though. As Carl was saying
Thursday to Dale and I at Cook Forest, measuring a giant tree is the easy
part. Finding it is the hard part. We were led right up to the Widen
Poplar. (Thanks go to Amy Cimarolli of the West Virginia Nature Conservancy
for that.) We were just lucky enough to be the first to measusre it using
laser rangefinders and the double sine method.

I'd like to make a few comments on the tree not measuring up to the 195'
listed in the West Virginia Register of Big Trees. As Carl mentioned in his
report posted Wednesday, their are some very big branch stubs near the top
of the tree indicating that it was almost certainly taller in the past,
perhaps much taller. You can kind of get an idea of this from the photo of
the top of the tree now posted on the ENTS web site. In the photo you can
see what looks like a bulge about 3/4 up the trunk.


Though the photo posted perhaps doesn't show this very convincingly, a major
portion of the trunk appears to have broken off many years ago at this area
where the main trunk is still very thick. Pretty much the whole top of the
tree must have come down. Since then branches have grown up from the break
area to form the new crown. This new growth probably amounts to maybe 30 or
so feet of height with the thickness of the new braches not nearly as thick
as those that broke off. My guess is that this tree was at one time easily
over 180' tall. (By the way, none of this is April Fool's mischief!)

I'm not an expert, but aside from what you said in your post (below) about
height limitations due to vessel size and the fact that no tulip poplar has
yet been found to breech the 180' mark, I have to say that if ever there was
a +180' tulip poplar the Widen Poplar was probably it.

You even have to wonder about the 195' measurement. The scars at the
breakage point looked old, so my guess is that that measurement was probably
made after the breakage and the error is to classic tangent method error.
Still I wonder.

Carl and I were saying Thursday that, in hindsight, we should have taken
many more detailed measurements of the tree besides height. With the rain
and the melting snow falling on us in clumps from the trees we were just
pre-occupied with getting the height right. (And I have to say we did feel
some pressure on us to get it right!) It would have been nice to know how
high the tree is at the breakage spot. Neither of us, of course, have an RD
1000, but it would have been nice to see how thick the trunk is at that
point (pretty thick). (We did take the height to the first branch. I
remember it being around 80'.)

I don't know how much mathematical modeling has been done on tulip poplar
shape and growth, but it would be interesting to take width measurements of
the tree at different points up to the breakage point, plug the numbers into
a model and project what the height of the tree might have been while it was
still intact. Do any such models for tulip poplar shape and growth exist?

Dang! I could kick myself now for not getting the height of the breakage
point! That and width measurements will have to wait for a future ENTS
visit to the tree. I really hope that you, Bob, and some of the more
knowledgable and experienced ENTS -- Will, Jesse, etc. get to see and
measure this tree while it's still standing. I'd really like to hear your
opinions on what the pre-breakage height of this tree might have been. Put
this one way up near the top of your lists guys. It's a real doozy!

Anthony Kelly
RE: Carl and Anthony Score Big Time TULIPTREES   Will Blozan
  Apr 02, 2006 11:45 PDT 

Anthony, Carl, ENTS,

I have certainly experienced your enthusiasm (and regrets- Damn, why didn't
I...) about measuring a significant tree. I am impressed with the lack of
taper and huge trunk of the tree. However, I would like to discuss the
tuliptree as we currently know it. I have had the privilege of climbing some
of the huge ones in the Smokies and measuring thousands down here in the
southern Appalachians.

As far as the suspected 180' height threshold for the species, I still
believe it will hold, at least with the current population of trees we have
to study. ENTS has found about 80 tuliptrees that reach over 170 feet. All
but a half dozen or so are in the Smokies (Jess and I added one in SC last
Wednesday- 177.5'). Of the known trees over 170', only 4 exceed 177'. Of
these trees, ALL are less than 120 years old and have very slim tops.

Some of the tallest old trees, 7' thick and 4000 cubic feet volume, have
huge, massive tops on them (see the Sag Branch climb photos on the ENTS
website). I still don't believe the trees were ever much taller than they
are now. The Sag Branch tree is currently 168' tall, and has trunk wood over
a foot in diameter just 20 feet below the canopy. There are big breaks and
huge stubs up there indicating the tree has been tall for centuries. Still,
it likely never exceeded 170' in its life and probably never will.

I'm not saying the Widen Poplar wasn't ever taller; it is just very unlikely
it was over 180' based on what we currently know. Admittedly, we do not know
squat about West Virginia's tuliptrees and what they do on good sites-
except the one tree ever measured. The state holds huge potential and really
needs an ENTS representative to shed light on the gems growing there! From
what I can recall, thus far there has been but three trips to the state;
Cathedral State Park, Webster Springs and your trip.

Speaking of trees in WV that need a return visit, the Webster Springs
Sycamore needs to be reticled for volume before it falls and implodes on
itself. That tree, with its HUGE trunk break, was likely over 160' at one
time, considering the remnant branch that remains is over 144' high.

RE: Carl and Anthony Score Big Time TULIPTREES   wad-@comcast.net
  Apr 02, 2006 18:31 PDT 

When you climbed some of the big tulips, did you ever measure the annual growth up at the tips? How many inches does a big tree put on annually? Does that amount of growth reduce as the tree gets really big? For instance, say a young tulip can put on three feet of new growth in one season in it's first few years. Does that then decrease over time to where it basically "leafs out" and puts on a 1/2" at the top when it is huge? Just curious. Just for gambling purposes, but I think they will reach 180' somewhere.

RE: Carl and Anthony Score Big Time TULIPTREES   Robert Leverett
  Apr 03, 2006 05:12 PDT 


Good questions. Will will have to answer them for the tuliptrees, but
seevral of us will have input on white pines. With the Macroscope 25, we
can now measure new growth at the top of the tree to an accuracy of
about a half inch or slightly less. The trees in MTSF that are in the
100 - 150 year age class are currently growing at the rate of 8 to 13
inches per year. I think silviculturists commonly expect to see 4 to 6
inches new growth for trees in that age class.

RE: Carl and Anthony Score Big Time TULIPTREES   Will Blozan
  Apr 03, 2006 06:02 PDT 

The big ones are not growing 3 feet of course; I would suppose 3-6 inches.
Of course, that growth is spread over numerous branches so a single tree may
be gaining dozens of feet in annual height any given year. The younger trees
over 170 feet still appear to be growing 8-12 inches per year, and Bob
Leverett and I have monitored the tulips in Baxter Creek and have "watched"
as several have entered the 170' height class by putting on over 1 foot a
year. The second tallest tree in the Smokies, a 177.1 foot tree in Big
Creek, grew about 11 inches the previous year. I haven't measured it yet
this spring but plan to see what happened last year! We did have a freeze
that killed all the leaves last spring but I doubt it seriously slowed them
down. I expect it to be close to 178' now. Of course, the height champ, the
"Rucker Tuliptree", needs a revisit. I went there with Jess and John
Eichholz last month but it was too foggy to get a shot to the top!

Yes, a 180' tree is out there. Jess and I measured a 177.5' tree in South
Carolina last week that has an absolutely perfect, single leader, and is
very young. That tree or the Big Creek tree above will likely be the first
to grow to 180', but we may find one before then.


RE: Carl and Anthony Score Big Time TULIPTREES   wad-@comcast.net
  Apr 03, 2006 06:38 PDT 

Sounds like we will have some 180's in three years or less! Do you have a height limit in mind for tulip? Guesstimate?

Do you have much experience with Dawn redwood? I know it is not a native Eastern tree, and it is only known by fossil record in the west, but I measured a tree that was planted in the 40's, from the initial batch from the rediscovery in China, that is 125'+. I am thinking this tree will be a height champion for the east coast someday. I have one in my yard that has put on three feet or more each year for the past eight years. Almost all of the original trees that I have measured are over 100'. Just something to think about!

Back to Anthony   Robert Leverett
  Apr 03, 2006 06:40 PDT 


   Thanks for the excellent summary. You guys are the greatest! I
sympathized with your kicking yourself for not having gotten other
measurements while at the tree. That is an occupational challenge we all
live with. I have failed to take that additional measurement or two more
times that I care to remember. I'm often in the forest with groups and
have limited time. I am forever frantically trying to grab measuring

   Sometime this summer, I'd like to visit the poplar with you all, if
we could work out a date. Maybe we can take the extra measurements. I
would bring both the RD 1000 and the Macroscope 25 to measure diameter
aloft. We could model the volume of the tree for historical purposes.

   It is exciting to think of the Widen poplar as having been 195 feet
tall at one time. No way of knowing, but we can dream. It is interesting
that we just can't seem to break 180 on that species and it isn't for
lack of looking. I think a few 190s did exist in the past, but probably
only as statistical outliers, rather like the 8-foot tall circus man, if
a human analogy is valid.

   Don Bertolette makes good points about loss of genetic diversity and
that might figure in. Bruce Allen speaks to atmospheric pollution as a
possible source of adverse impact on the tallest trees. But regardless,
we need to get the best that remains documented before the standard for
judging excellence undergoes another reduction.


Re:   Jess Riddle
  Apr 03, 2006 07:28 PDT 

Carl, Anthony;

Great report. What you found starts to fill some big holes in the
ENTS database, and having measurements from the northern end of some
species' ranges, like yellow buckeye, is nice. The Widen Poplar is
certainly the surprise of the trip. Tree crowns are so variable that
determining the height of a missing section for an individual tree may
always be beyond our capabilities. Nonetheless, the 173.2' figure is
extremely impressive; thanks for taking the time to get good

RE: Carl and Anthony Score Big Time TULIPTREES   Anthony Kelly
  Apr 03, 2006 20:56 PDT 


I guess I based my speculations about the Widen Poplar's possibly once being
+180' on everday, layman's assumptions about what younger broken trees might
have looked like before being damaged.

I'll try to explain. Let's say we see a younger, but sizable, tree that had
at one time been broken completely off at some place where the trunk was
still relatively thick. We also see that this tree has grown a newer top
from the breakage point. This new top has branches that, at their base, are
thinner than the original trunk. The new growth adds say 15' of height.

Our eye and mind tend to do a quick extrapolation and fill in what the
original tree might have looked like (height, crown spread, etc.) based on
our past experiences seeing many other similar trees with comparable trunk
sizes at that height. Though there is a great deal of variability in how
individual trees grow and how this actual tree might have looked, the
speculative tree in our mind's eye would tend toward normative dimensions.
Such images would probably be fairly accurate much of the time. The more
trees of a species (and location and growing conditons, etc) that we are
familiar with the more accurate our speculative image would tend to be.

Now, when dealing with a tree like the Widen Poplar that is at or near it's
height potental, additional constraints would apply, and a common-sensical,
off-the-cuff extrapolation like the one described above based on assumptions
about younger trees would likely be erroneous.

Because the Widen Poplar has so little taper up to the break off spots, it's
easy to fall into the trap of assuming that it must have originally grown
straight tapering at the same rate from its current thickness to a point
where the trunk was thin resulting in an incredibly high tree.

Of course, the tree may have reached a height at or about its current height
years before it achieved it's current thickness. If a <180' max height
limit due to vessel size or some other constraining factor has been
operating on the tree, would the trunk have continued to grow thicker and
thicker over the years as successive tops came and went?

Boy, I'm just ruminating away here. Am I any making any sense at all?

I guess what I'm trying to say is: I get your point. You've seen alot of
170+ Tulip Poplars than me, so you're the better judge.

Anthony Kelly
Re: Carl and Anthony Score Big Time TULIPTREES   Fores-@aol.com
  Apr 04, 2006 06:55 PDT 

When we were at the Widen poplar, Mike Plevich and I were trying to estimate
the diameter of the trunk at various heights. Because the tree had so
little taper I was trying to determine whether this tree would fit in a form class
(for timber volume determination based on taper) that would be close to the
maximum of 90. For comparison, an old, slow growing western Mass or Vermont
hemlock with an ice cream cone shaped taper would be a FC 65 or 67 tree. It
would be wonderful to have some additional measurements as my best guess is
that at the first branch in the Widen poplar (85') the trunk is still more
than 36" in diameter and where the trunk breaks into the large branches that
make up the current top at around 126' the diameter should be close to 2 feet.

I think that what has intrigued me the most about some of the discussion is
that the Widen poplar is located at the western edge of a three or four
thousand square mile area that represents the most productive forestland in West
Virginia. From what I saw when we were measuring the Widen poplar and what I
know to exist in other parts of the state I would say it should almost be a
certainty that there are several second growth poplars pushing or exceeding

I will do some polling among people I know in WV to see whether I can get
any consensus on where the tallest poplars grow. Personally, I have witnessed
several trees harvested that were under 30" DBH (7.8' CBH) and had a straight
stem that tapered to a 10-12" diameter tip over 125' from the stump.

I am growing curious about the size of some of the other "named" trees in
the woodlands of WV, especially a red oak tree that monuments the intersection
of Clay, Kanawha and Roane Counties.

RE: Carl and Anthony Score Big Time TULIPTREES   Robert Leverett
  Apr 04, 2006 08:04 PDT 


   I'm excited by what you all have confirmed in WV. You've been telling
us for years how productive some of the WV sites are. I absolutely want
to visit you later this year. Maybe by then you'll have identified
several fertile sites growing tuliptrees that rival any that we've
confirmed elsewhere. 


Widen Poplar Volume   Will Blozan
  Apr 09, 2006 10:57 PDT 

I must retract my initial estimate of the Widen Poplar's volume I submitted
last week. My mind and handheld calculator were over zealous!
The numbers I submit below are based on the photos, Russ' comments, and what
I have seen tuliptree do in reality. Based on the numbers below the volume
is actually closer to 1850 ft3.

Height   Girth

0          22
2          19
4.5        17.58
20         16.5
40         15.5
60         15
80         13.5
100       11
120       8
140       6
160       4
170       .5

It is hard to believe that there are tuliptrees in the Smokies that at 85'
above the ground, they are larger than the Widen tree is at BH. Such trees
contain nearly 2500 ft3 of wood in that first 85'.