Treetop Perspectives   Robert Leverett
  Mar 03, 2002 19:55 PST 

High up in the Sag Branch tulip, Feb 2004, 
photo by Will Blozan

      (material deleted)  I want to sing my old buddy's
praises. I just viewed an awesome video of Will Blozan, Michael Davie and others
climbing 3 great trees: (1) a 167-foot Loblolly giant in Congaree, (2) a
161-foot Hemlock in Walhalla, S.C., and (3) a 168 (almost) foot Hemlock also
in Walhalla. The area of Hemlocks is on the East Fork of the Chattooga
River. A close by White Pine tops 170 feet. My conclusion from this video is
that one cannot truly know trees from ground level. The dry descriptions of
growth from Oliver and Larson just don't hack it anymore. The old growth
monarchs that Will climbs are so very much more than the woody-stemmed
garden vegetables that Oliver and Larson describe. Will's trees are
veritable hotels in the forest. They harbor so much, much more life and
serve so many more functions than just storing carbon on the stem. 

Honestly, forest ecologists need to get up into the canopies of these grand 
trees and seriously study what is going on. It is absolutely amazing as to what is
going on in the canopy of these trees. Ecologists who study from the ground
are living in a two dimensional world and are missing a world aloft. The
complexity and diversity of canopy life gives new meaning to Bill Martin's
critique of designer old-growth, perhaps the ultimate human silliness.

Experiments that seek to blow the tops out of trees to create artificial
cavities for a select number of birds are misguided, if not down right
pathetic. Will found whole colonies of polypody ferns growing on limbs 140+
feet in the air. Caches of pine seeds. Lichen growth inches thick. You name
it. A whole different world. Nobody who views these films of Will's climbs
of these ancient trees can ever seriously view trees in an old growth forest
as just over the hill versions of tame tree farm trees. The wildness and
diversity of these magnificent southern Appalachian and southern swamp
forests is amply revealed from Will's canopy shots. Looking across the
Conagree from a perch 160 in the air shows the tops of giant emergents. All
that was missing was the head of a T-Rex. The shots have that effect.