Holy Grail discovered!   Will Blozan
  Feb 08, 2007 08:10 PST 

The dedicated searching of the Tsuga Search Project has yielded the first
confirmed eastern hemlock to break 170’ tall. Yesterday I climbed a hemlock
on Big Fork Ridge in Cataloochee that Jess Riddle found several weeks ago.
This tree, named the “Survivor”, is one of the few trees remaining in a
fairly large blowdown, probably from Hurricane Opal in 1995.

view_from_top.jpg (68285 bytes)

 It was quite a
climbing experience in the sense that there were very few trees surrounding
it so the ground (or rather fallen trunks and young saplings) were in view
at all times. One side of the tree had very few limbs and the sense of
height was strong due to the open space. Long range views over Caldwell Fork
were awesome.

survivor_stitch4.jpg (70242 bytes)
Survivor - Stitch of tree
first_ascent.jpg (84799 bytes)
 First Ascent

I carried a pole up with me because the top was so thin and mostly dead
(HWA). The tape drop revealed the height to be 172.1’, breaking the former
height record by 2.3’! The former record of 169.8’ has held since 1998 when
Brian Hinshaw and I climbed the “Tsali Hemlock”, also in Cataloochee. This
tree brings the average height of the top ten eastern hemlocks known to
169.8’. The range in height of the top ten is only 3.7’, and eight of these
trees are in the Smokies. The volume of the ancient Survivor tree is 884
cubes as determined by incremental girth measurements. CBH is modest at
11’7”, but the extreme height and slow trunk taper (8’1” at 100’) allows it
to be relatively large for its diameter. However, as far as volume goes,
this tree is just over ˝ the size of the largest known.

tape_drop.jpg (81934 bytes)
Tape Drop
tippy_top_172_1.jpg (76166 bytes)
Tippy-Top at 172.1 feet

We have two more trees to climb on this ridge that have been lasered over
170’. I plan to climb one tomorrow and the other next week. These two other
trees, though similar in height, couldn’t be more different in size. One
will be the smallest tree in the project by volume (<500 cubes) whereas the
other will be in the top ten for volume with more than 1300 cubic feet of
wood, perhaps 1350 or more. They also are different in health; the small one
is already essentially dead from HWA but the larger tree still has a fairly
full crown and may recover with HWA treatments.

grove_is_dead.jpg (81352 bytes)
The grove is dead
blowdown_from_above.jpg (109095 bytes)
Blowdown from above

Will Blozan

President, Eastern Native Tree Society
President, Appalachian Arborists, Inc.

Back to Will   Robert Leverett
  Feb 08, 2007 09:08 PST 


   The legitimate claim of Tsuga canadensis to the title of largest
evergreen conifer in the East will likely take some time to be
understood by big tree aficionados. But it will happen if we continue
the drum roll.