Southern Appalachian hemlock update   Will Blozan
  Nov 27, 2006 17:26 PST 

I figured it was time for an update on some hemlock related topics down here
in the southern Appalachians. Jess and I have been busy with the Tsuga
Search Project and hemlock woolly adelgid treatment projects. This is just a
list of some topics that may be of interest.

The Adelgid.

The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is omnipresent in western NC, eastern TN
and SC, with a few sites in GA still apparently uninfested. The long growing
season appears to have extended the reproductive cycle into several months
of active crawlers that infest the new growth through June and into July. A
very heavy late brood this spring seemed to be primarily the winged version
which doesn't pose a threat to the trees except for their prior feeding.
This brood was heavy and covered trunks fully 4 inches in diameter with
woolly masses. Entire branches in the giant trees I climbed this spring were
covered. The hatch was impressive with literally clouds of little adelgids
flying about. My field notebooks during the spring were also smeared with
fallen crawlers that I smashed.

Carolina hemlocks

I have had the fortunate opportunity to preserve some fairly large tracts of
Carolina hemlock forests in SC and NC. The tract in SC was the coolest job I
have had. My company was hired to treat a bluff forest on Roundtop Mountain,
SC- one of only a handful of sites in the state with Carolina hemlock. 
IMG_6464.JPG (117720 bytes)
 Carolina hemlock bluff forest on Roundtop Mtn, SC
IMG_6473.JPG (68775 bytes)
 Carolina hemlock bluff forest on Roundtop Mtn, SC

For those of you who do not know the Carolina hemlock, I'll tell you, it is an
entirely different beast than the eastern hemlock. In contrast to the
preferred sites of the eastern hemlock, the Carolina seems to like the dry,
exposed ridges of exposed rock and well-drained soils. This provides them
with the opportunity to get blown and contorted into incredibly gnarly
forms, and as such top my list as one of the most gorgeous eastern trees. To
me, they are analogous to the raven- if you see one you know you are in a
cool place! Anyway, the SC job entailed rappelling down cliff faces to get
to the trees to apply a soil injection of a systemic insecticide. We set up
rope traverses to shuttle the solution over chasms. In places, the trees
were like furry caps on rock islands. The roots followed narrow cracks and
splits in the rock face and seemed to spawn small soil pockets as the roots
trapped debris. One of the trees I treated was literally hanging off the
rock and its base was well above its crown. In all, we treated 5,300
diameter inches of Carolina hemlocks (a few easterns thrown in as well). The
heavily infested Carolinas at this site were a far healthier looking green
than the grayed out eastern hemlocks below the bluff.

The job in NC was for a private individual. His property had some of the
finest old-growth and mature second-growth Carolina hemlocks I have seen
outside of Linville Gorge. Fortunately, he had the resources to treat nearly
all of the hemlock forest including the entire old-growth section. This
property may well represent one of the few treated tracts of this forest
type in NC. A nearby site owned by The Nature Conservancy is likely doomed,
as they seem to be set on "monitoring" the infestation. Maybe other folks
know of some high-quality sites being preserved. I know some trees have been
treated at the Carolina Hemlocks Campground near Celo, NC. This job totaled
over 26,000 diameter inches of Carolina and eastern hemlocks over about 50

National Park Service

My company has also won bids for treatment of old-growth eastern hemlocks in
the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. All treatments were in the
Cataloochee District on tributaries of Caldwell or Rough Fork. Last year we
treated ~25,000 diameter inches and have treated ~16,000 so far this fall.
We have about 20,000 to go for this round and hope to bid on more work soon.
Some of the forests we are treating may be beyond hope at this point but
after seeing the site in SC (see below) I have more hope that they will

UpperWindingStair426.jpg (644635 bytes)
 Winding Stair Treatment Area

IMG_0209.JPG (156168 bytes) 
Treatments on Winding Stair Branch

James Smith asked what it would cost to treat a portion of Winding
Stair Branch several months ago. Well, we have now treated 32.5 acres of it
so far which totaled around 13,600 diameter inches. Insecticides were ~$.60
per inch which results in treatment materials costing approximately $8200.
Due to an unusual billing detail I cannot give a labor cost at this time but
I think we had a crew of 4-5 in there for four days, 8-9 hours total each
day. 2.5 hours per day was spent driving to the site for each person. We
then hiked off-trail down the steep slopes into the awesome groves. This
stand includes the "Winding Stairs Loner" hemlock I posted about a few
months ago.

Tree10stitch3.jpg (134032 bytes)
 Tree #10 - Jim Branch tree treated in 2002 with untreated adjacent
IMG_0283.JPG (170867 bytes)
 Tree #8 clean of HWA

In early November I climbed a hemlock in a grove on Jim Branch that was
treated in 2002 with a soil application of the same systemic insecticide
(imidacloprid). The tree I climbed and the other nine were typically in
excellent health with some loss of lower limbs. One tree in particular, tree
#10, was very full and a luscious green. The tree I climbed, tree #8, was in
rapid recovery with a few limbs still in the process of flushing new growth.
This was a surprise, but now that I think of it a tree I treated on my
parent's property in 2002 has a limb that is still rather bare but alive and
still growing. It is probably obvious but the surrounding trees, even those
adjacent to the treated ones, were in very poor health or dead.

Yonaguska Hemlock

Jess and I reclimbed the (dead) Yonaguska Hemlock in September to perform
the frame mapping technique on the giant fusion of the forked tops (one
section was over 60 inches wide!). This tree has been regarded as the
largest hemlock in the Smokies and was climbed and measured by myself and
Michael Davie in 1998. We took some shortcuts in the fused area because we
simply did not know how to deal with it. The volume before Jess and I
climbed it was 1402 cubic feet, slightly larger than the 1385 cubic foot
Caldwell Colossus I climbed in March, 2006. Jess and I set up four frames
and recalculated the volume to 1367 ft3. Jess and I are also working on
frame mapping the bases of these giant trees so the volume will change again

Cheoah Hemlock

Speaking of big hemlocks, the volume record Cheoah Hemlock (1564 ft3) was
treated for HWA in June! At that time it was in its second-flush of recovery
growth due to heavy a HWA infestation since at least 2004. Many thanks to
the USFS for providing the chemical and opportunity to try to save this
exceptional tree! ENTS RULES!

IMG_6735.JPG (160647 bytes)
 Treating the Cheoah Hemlock

East Fork of the Chattooga River, Ellicott Rock Wilderness, Oconee County,

It was while trying to break the height record for eastern hemlock that I
found my first southern Appalachian hemlock woolly adelgid infestation in
this grove. That was December 2001, and Jess and I returned two weeks ago to
perform vegetation plots on the two tallest trees for the Tsuga Search
Project. We fully expected the trees to be dead, but were surprised to see
that some were in fairly good vigor. Of the five trees in the grove over
160' tall three were dead; the "Medlin Mountain Monarch" (161.9'), the "East
Fork Spire" (167.7'), and the "One-Armed Bandit" (161.9'). 

IMG_0544.JPG (149747 bytes)
 One Armed Bandit - Dead

The two other tall trees and several others had re-flushed a new crown and were 
quite green and full despite the 5 years+ of HWA infestation. In 2001 I found HWA
in the East Fork Spire but it was by no means a heavy infestation. I also
climbed the Medlin Mountain Monarch on the same day and saw no HWA in it. I
am puzzled why these trees have died so quickly. In contrast, the tallest
tree, a tree I have dubbed "Ellicott's Rocket", which Ed Coyle and I
climbed, was fully shut-down and defoliating in 2004. This tree is now fully
green although heavily infested with HWA.

IMG_0640.JPG (163831 bytes)
 Volume modeling of the East Fork Spire
IMG_0602.JPG (168436 bytes)
 Ellicott’s Rocket

I used the reticle to get wood volume of the East Fork Spire and Ellicott's
Rocket; 640 ft3 and 780 ft3 respectively. I also remeasured the heights of
both trees and got 168.7' and 169.8' respectively. I fully believe the EF
Spire gained another foot as it was growing 7 inches+ per year when I
climbed it. It was destined to reach 170' but died just ~15 inches shy.
Ellicott's Rocket likely did not gain height except perhaps in the point
selected for the midslope measurement. We did not mark it when Ed and I did
the tape drop in 2004. A climb may be justified since the very tip-top is
still alive and growing. Still, it will not make 170' without aggressive HWA
management which doesn't look promising given the past reactions of the
Sumter NF district ranger in 2004. The condition of the USFS trees is in
dismal contrast to the healthy, treated trees on USDA property just upstream
at the trailhead. Talk about missing the boat.

EastForkSpire2.jpg (65581 bytes)
 East Fork Spire clean of HWA
EllicottsRocketwhole3.jpg (63402 bytes)
Stitch of Ellicott’s Rocket; broken topped tree behind is over 160’ tall

Gabes Mountain, TN, GRSM

Two weeks ago Jess and I returned to do a vegetation plot around the huge,
stocky Gabes Mountain Hemlock that Michael Davie and I climbed in 1999. The
tree scaled 1220 ft3 and is currently among the top ten big hemlocks known.

IMG_0725.JPG (170085 bytes)
 Gabes Mountain Hemlock November 2006

After finishing the plot we explored briefly upstream and were shocked to
discover what is almost certainly a bigger tree just about 250 yards
upslope. The unnamed tree is 15.4' cbh and 145.7 feet tall. This is one of
those trees that has a moderate cbh and a puny height but makes up for it in
lack of taper. 

IMG_0734.JPG (150925 bytes)
 New giant off Gabes Mountain Trail
IMG_0737.JPG (139096 bytes)
 Untapered trunk of new find

After measuring this tree we crossed over the ridge to the
west into upper Buckeye Creek. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to witness
what would likely have been the largest hemlock in the Smokies. We crawled
up on the massive fallen log, which at over 20 feet up was roughed out to be
~54 inches diameter (the log was contacting the ground so we couldn't get a
tape around it). 

IMG_0744.JPG (298427 bytes)
 Fallen trunk of 19’1” hemlock
IMG_0751.JPG (148048 bytes)
 Trunk of 19’1” hemlock

At 60 feet it was still over 13 feet in girth, but at 4.5
feet it was an outstanding 19'1" cbh. Bummer.

Will Blozan

President, Eastern Native Tree Society

President, Appalachian Arborists, Inc.

Re: Southern Appalachian hemlock update   Neil Pederson
  Nov 30, 2006 15:01 PST 
Hi All,

As this thread is an update on hemlock in the southern Appalachian Mtns, I
hate to tell ENTS that HWA has been detected in southeastern Kentucky;
Harlan County, specifically.

I recently got word, unfortunately, that it is likely that HWA has been
found in Blanton Forest in Harlan County. Blanton Forest is one of the
premier old-growth forests in KY. 'Discovered' just over a decade ago,
Blanton is a ~ 2000 acre tract of mostly uncut forest. Recent sampling
across the preserve indicates many 250-300+ yr old white and chestnut oaks
and a few ~300 yr old hemlocks. It also has a population of bear and elk
live in the area. A preliminary survey several yrs ago suggested the
earthworms are native! It is a nice piece of woods. For those of you who can
make the trip or are in the area, visit it while it is still whole:


RE: Southern Appalachian hemlock update   Will Blozan
  Nov 30, 2006 16:44 PST 

Any idea what the management strategy is for HWA in Blanton Forest?

Re: Southern Appalachian hemlock update   Neil Pederson
  Dec 01, 2006 05:00 PST 

Not yet. The forest steward there, Merril Flanary, has been preparing for
this over the past 5-6 months in that she has been contacting people with
knowledge on HWA and studying the issue for Blanton. She got a group of Boy
Scouts together to search for it a month or so ago. So, she is trying to be

Unfortunately, the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust [KNLT], the group who is one
of the prime managers of the tract, is not financially strong at the moment;
I would guess they are not yet strong enough to tackle this issue on their
own. Having said that, KY does have a Forest Health Task Force discussing
HWA and emerald ash borer. We have a meeting in a couple weeks. I would
guess there will be discussion on how this will might be handled. Luckily
there is a surplus in the KY state budget this yr. Maybe this will get some
of the dribblings from that pot?

Will, with all of your expertise on this subject, perhaps you could share
some advice with John Obrycki [head to task force], Joyce Bender  [on task 
force and KY State Nature Preserves manager] or Hugh Archer or Merril  of 
KNLT? I know all are very concerned about this.

Like I said earlier, it is likely that HWA is in Blanton. I've not heard the
final, official results yet. In either case, it is within 30 or so miles.

Re: Southern Appalachian hemlock update   Neil Pederson
  Dec 02, 2006 22:02 PST 
Hi All,

Just got the official word: HWA has been confirmed on ~ 100 trees in
Blanton Forest; they are unsure on how to proceed. Dave Orwig, Will Blozan -
got an ideas or advice? Please consider contacting the people (at least John
O'Brycki) that I listed in my previous email. I would be more than happy to
pass along any info, too.