Tsuga Search report: the "Woolly Mammoth", Kalanu Prong, TN- GRSM   Will Blozan
  Jul 02, 2006 19:09 PDT 
Tsuga Search report: Climb of the Woolly Mammoth hemlock May 17th, 2006

Like the rediscovery of the "Winding Stairs Loner" this tree was located
from a past recollection of mine of a huge hemlock somewhere on Kalanu Prong
in the Greenbrier District of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TN). A
reconnaissance trip was justified, and Jess and I were accompanied in early
February by Kristine Johnson and Tom Remaley of the National Park Service,
GRSM to locate the tree for the Tsuga Search. After a long day of modeling
tuliptrees (no big hemlocks were to be found) we came upon this tree tucked
against a steep bank very late in the day. A full four miles from the
trailhead, we decided to take the time to complete some monocular shots to
estimate the volume rather than return later (we hiked out in the dark). Our
ground-based measurements indicated the tree to be a whopper, fully 15'1" in
girth, 152.9' tall and containing ~1270 cubic feet of wood.

The numbers put the tree on the top of the list for a climb, as it would be
the third largest hemlock documented in the Smokies- if the monocular
estimate was accurate. This huge tree grows on the western face of Woolly
Tops Mountain, a rugged spruce covered peak topping out at 5463 feet. Since
this tree is vastly larger than any other in the area that we know of I
dubbed its pet name to be the "Woolly Mammoth". Apparently this tree
impressed Tom and Kristine as they returned a few weeks after its discovery
to complete a soil treatment to combat the hemlock woolly adelgid

We set up the trip and ironically, fellow ENT and dendrochronological whiz
Neil Pederson and his assistant were down the same day to core mountain
silverbell and yellow buckeye- species abundant in the same area. So, the
four of us packed in the gear for the climb and plot work. We reached the
tree after much ascending and rock hopping and I climbed for the aerial
measurements, Jess began the vegetation plots, and Neil's team cored their
target trees.

The tree grows at the transition of a hemlock/birch and a rich cove
hardwoods forest at close to 3900 feet elevation. The diversity of trees was
astounding and the view one direction was entirely different from the other.
Just about 25 feet north of the stream, the Mammoth has enjoyed little crown
competition on the south side which has resulted in a huge mass of limbs on
that side and a slight but pronounced lean towards the creek. These limbs
are huge, one of which I estimated at 40 feet long as it twisted and
descended for the best light. In one section, two huge limbs jutted out of
the trunk just inches from each other in the same direction (tusks,
perhaps?). One of these turned up and splayed out into a complex of small
reiterations. The tree was very gnarly and full of a dizzying array of
twisted and cascading limbs.

Views from the stout top were incredible; high vistas of cloud-laden spruce,
fresh greens of new sugar maple and basswood leaves, and the newly
discovered vibrant display of yellow buckeye blooms and moss covered
boulders as viewed from above. The hemlocks however, were not in fresh green
spring plumage as the hemlock woolly adelgid has a firm grip on the area.
The mammoth was covered head to toe with adelgid and portions of the crown
had begun to decline. Surprisingly though, the top was still growing in
places and flower buds were about to break.

The tape drop indicated it was 2.5 inches taller than the laser measurement
(not too bad ;), but more impressive was the result of the aerial volume
measurement. The taped increments and girths gave a volume of 1261.9 cubic
feet, just 7.7 cubic feet (.6%) different than those of the monocular.

Here are some specs of the tree:

Total height    153.2'

Basal girth=   18'4"

CBH                15'1"

Girth at 20'     13'0"

Girth at 50'     12'1"

Girth at 100'   8'6"

.And just for you Bob Leverett, 1004 cubic feet by 79.9'.

Will Blozan