Log Length   Fores-@aol.com
  Nov 06, 2003 08:00 PST 

I have never actually sat down until just now to toss out some of those
height numbers. I know a couple of big tree nuts in WV who are always hunting for
records but there is no one I am aware of measuring maximum tree heights in WV
with the degree of accuracy of ENTS.

In terms of several species of trees, merchantable height often is a very
good indication of total tree height. In most cases, especially dealing with
some of the more valuable hardwoods, merchantable height often stops where limbs
or branches begin...red oaks and yellow poplars (plus cucumber and basswood),
black cherry and walnut are the only trees that are regularly used to a tip
end smaller than 12."

Before I do a chart, taper, relative a couple of measured examples from past
timber sales....top wood and limb wood above merchantable height is generally
30 to 50 additional height but can easily be 60' depending upon utilization
specs or local markets.

black oak 18" DBH.... diameter at 54' (end of clean stem) 16"

yellow poplar 20" DBH.... diameter at 115' 12".......rest of stem shattered
when it fell

I almost never measure total tree height but I can sure tell when I'm in a
100' woods......it really doesn't have to be that big or old and it is not that

From past experience......for WV all species except soft hardwoods
merchantable top diameter is historically 12" (10" in a very competitive market),
poplars now utilized to 8" but historically 11-12" for black cherry now 10" (or
smaller to 7")

Maximum log height          WV          Common          MA/NE
Species                                    WV log height    
Red oak                         105'          75'                     55'
White oak                      90'             75'                    45'
Black oak                       100'           75'                     45'
Chestnut oak                   90+            75'              25-30'          
Yellow poplar                   125+           100+               40'           
(Whately, MA)
Black cherry                       105+   (10" tip) 85'             50'   
White pine                  110-120   (12" tip dia) 100'         100+
Sugar maple                  80'             65'                         48+
Red maple                      90+'         75'                         60+
Butternut                       78+          n/a                       50'
Shagbark hickory           100+            80'                      45+
Sycamore                    120+           110+                      100+

Common merchantable heights are not necessarily typical merchantable heights.
Typical heights for red oaks are around 60,' typical heights for poplars are
around 75' and typical heights for sugar maple is between 50 and 55'. As a
general rule (if there is one) typical tree heights are about 75-80% of common
maximum with absolute measured maximum about 125% of common maximum.

Personally, I have seen very few trees that had a Doyle log scale greater
than 4,000 board feet but many loggers I have worked with have told of cutting
poplars with over 8,000 board feet and nearly everyone seems to have a story
about a 5,000 to 6,000 board foot red oak. I know a forester for a timber
company that sold an 84" DBH black walnut from company lands for $25,000.....and the
tree turned out to be a 100+ foot chimney! I have sold timber in the past to
a sawmill in Ohio that has a special saw to quarter logs that are greater
than 60" in diameter. The last time I was there, I saw a yellow poplar butt log
that was nearly 8' in diameter........it had grown along the banks of the Ohio
River and had multiple years of 1.25" growth rings.

I am currently working on a timber sale on a tract of land that was heavily
logged about 40-45 years ago. Although many of the trees are not extremely
large, there are some red oaks and poplars between 30 and 38." Scattered
throughout the tract are scattered Eastern white pine trees that run between 24 and
30" DBH with most of them hollow and fire-scarred. All of the white pines I
have tallied so far have had a minimum of 4 16 foot logs....a couple of culls
would have had 6 logs and a 32" pine tree that has about 6.5 logs of
merchantable wood also sports a very nice hawk nest. The pine was retained for the
benefit of the hawks. Retained trees immediately surrounding the hawk pine include
red and white oak, beech and hickory that are all of a similar size. Hawks
always tend to find the best tree on a 1000 acres of land and plop their nest
in the middle of it.

I had an earlier sale this year where there were a large number of oaks,
including, red, white and black oaks in excess of 8' CBH....the same sale had a
white ash nearly 11' CBH. Almost none of the timber in the sale was over 90
years old!

I leave the really big ones! I have some very nice 12-15" CBH red oak and
white oaks that were set asides as legacy areas on past timber sales. If you
ever make it down to this part of the world, I'll take you to a place close to
Weston where I had the opportunity to leave some of the largest and highest
quality trees I have seen for several species.....I also left some incredible
culls including cucumber, white oak, chestnut oak, black gum and red oak in
excess of 15' CBH.   

It really isn't until I am back in Massachusetts that I realize how different
our woods really are. I am far more likely to encounter over sized trees in
WV than I ever expected in New England but the likelihood of encountering "old
growth" here is rare.......however, I have a close by neighbor to Crummies
Creek who works for the Nature Conservancy and claims to have some 150+ year old
forest on their family's 500+ acre farm. The only close by old growth patch
I know for certain was devastated by an ice storm we had last February, in
that area, several red oaks and poplars in excess of 10' CBH were damaged and

Russ Richardson