Yonaguska Hemlock


      The Yonaguska hemlock, formerly the largest known hemlock, now dead.  Photo by Michael Davie

Yonaguska was one of the most prominent chiefs of the East Cherokees during the first half of the 19th century. Yonaguska fostered peace but steadfastly refused to agree to the removal of his portion of the tribe to the west. Later in life, he led his people in a successful abolition of the use of alcohol.

About the tree:  An excerpt from Bob Leverett May 05, 2004:  "...takes us back to the earlier days of ENTS when determining volume of the Smoky Mountain behemoths was a priority with us. We were fixated on the 1000-cubic-foot monsters, which promoted Will to climb several huge Smoky Mountain hemlocks in the Cataloochee district of the Park. We measured one to 1500+ cubic feet. That was the great Yonaguska hemlock. Though no longer alive, it is still our volume record holder..." 


Bob Leverett wrote May 19. 2006:

But how does one get good volume modeling data on trees that top 160 feet, 
are sandwiched in among each other, and are engulfed in rhododendron hells? 
Will decided that there was just one way to get valid data. He would climb a 
hemlock and measure its circumference at intervals of a yard or meter. He 
initially climbed what we later named the Yonaguska hemlock and taped its 
height at 168.9 feet.....

He took circumference measurements at intervals of 3 feet.  
On the climb up Yoni, Will was presented with a special challenge. About
75 feet up, the big tree splits into two trunks. So Will had to measure
both trunks for us to compute a total volume. In addition, the shape of
the fused area was obviously not circular. It couldn’t be ignored
because it contained a lot of wood.

Will and I developed an archetype Excel spreadsheet model to process the
data from the climb. We toyed with different trunk shapes and eventually
settled on a calculation that set the great hemlock’s trunk volume to
1458 cubic feet. Adding something for limb volume brought the tree to
over 1500 cubes. Courtesy of Will’s climbing prowess, we had entered a
new era of consciousness about the volumes of eastern trees.