Howland's Island

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Howland's Island, NY

Post by Jess Riddle » Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:53 pm

Ents,

I had a chance about a week ago to revisit Howland Island, measure several trees I had previously seen, and explore a few new areas. Once again, the diversity of forests struck me as remarkable for the latitude. Some post-agricultural areas are dominated by white ash, but others are nearly pure stands of bitternut hickory. Other second growth upland areas are dominated by black cherry, tuliptree, or quaking aspen, and sugar maple still dominates some slopes. I had thought all of the floodplain areas were strongly dominated by freeman maple, but a swamp at the north end of the island has abundant yellow birch and green ash with scattered hemlocks. I also found that the population of the state rare shellbark hickory is much larger than I had previously realized. In total, I counted 45 native tree species and 13 exotics, several of which are native to the surrounding area.

Perhaps the most surprising sight was two small groups of pin oaks. One group grows at the end of a row of Norway spruce, but the other grows at a non-descript location in a flat, second-growth forest. The species is not reported from that part of New York, so it would be a significant find if they are native. However, I doubt that is the case. The two stands cover less than an acre combined, and all the trees appear the same age. The stands are also not in swampy areas, but grow in association with aspen, tuliptrees, and a few sugar maples. Drainage may still be relatively poor, but is clearly better than on many parts of the island.
HowlandIslandMeasurements.JPG
HowlandIslandMeasurements.JPG (76.54 KiB) Viewed 1192 times
HowlandIslandRucker.JPG
HowlandIslandRucker.JPG (26.98 KiB) Viewed 1192 times
The range of heights contributing to the Rucker Index is surprisingly small. The quaking aspen, a severely undermeasured species, may be the tallest relative to what we have previously documented.

Jess Riddle

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ElijahW
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Re: Howland's Island

Post by ElijahW » Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:47 am

Jess,

Dad gummit! I was there on the Island a week ago Thursday and Friday, I think. The trips were not planned-just a spur of the moment thing, so I didn't think to contact you beforehand. I wish I had. We might have even been there at the same time, which would have been weird. I do have a couple of observations about your post, as well.

First, I'm encouraged by your discovery of hemlock and yellow birch. I've not been to the extreme north end of the island, just to the termination of the last trail going in that direction. I've spotted two individual white birches, probably about two miles apart, but no yellow. Across the road from the western entrance, the forest (private and gated, with no trespass signs) looks to hold lots of hemlock, white pine, and some American chestnut, so I figure there might be some chestnut on the island, too, but haven't found it yet. The northern tip of the island sounds like a likely place.

Second, I thought I'd spotted some Cucumber magnolia leaves on the ground on my last visit but couldn't find the source. I'm glad you identified some. What general area were they in?

Third, I measured a cottonwood near the river on the east side to just over 120'. I haven't found any trees taller than that, but I'm pleased that you have. I also remeasured the big red oak on hickory hill to the following dimensions: 99.11' high; 20'3" cbh; 85.95' average crown spread. I had previously measured the height at just over 93' from a different vantage point, had only measured the cbh on the lower side (not mid-slope), and had not measured the crown spread. Quercus rubra seems to grow really well out there.

Congrats also on the tall tulips, the slippery elms, and especially the pin oaks. Thanks for sharing.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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ElijahW
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Re: Howland's Island

Post by ElijahW » Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:35 pm

NTS,

Just an update on Howland's Island. I've been making trips out there over the last couple of years, trying to get as complete a picture as I can of the superlative trees calling this chunk of soil their home. I've not yet explored every inch, but that is my long-term goal. So far, I've documented measurements for 41 tree species, 35 naturally occurring and 6 planted. Of the 6 clearly planted species, two (Scots pine and Norway spruce) are not native.

The tallest species measured is (what else?) tuliptree, a straight-up laser shot at 129'. This tree is likely in the mid-130s, and several nearby specimens are in the 120-130' range. The shortest species on my list right now is hophornbeam, at 42.1'. 17 species at least 100' in height have been documented, and 21 over 90'. Between Jess Riddle's and my measurements, the Rucker Index for the Island now stands at 118.26'.

As far as girth goes, the fattest (and my personal favorite) tree is a northern red, at 20'3". The fattest of the skinny trees is a chinkapin oak, at 28". Ten species come in at 10'+, and another seven are over 100". The Rucker10 girth index now stands at 12.79'.

As Howland's Island is a favorite spot for mosquitoes and flies during the warm months, I'll probably not be out there again until fall. Looking forward, my main goals are:
1. Confirming a tree over 130'
2. Finding a 100' and/or 10' cbh yellow birch
3. Locating American chestnut on the Island.

Hopefully I'll have more to share in a few months.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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dbhguru
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Re: Howland's Island

Post by dbhguru » Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:48 pm

Elijah

Really great stuff! I love to see us get a solid handle on sites and your and Jess's measurements have done that for Howland Island. I've passed through the general area a dozen and a half times, but never knew what was lurking in the wetlands. Now I know.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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ElijahW
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Re: Howland's Island

Post by ElijahW » Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:39 pm

Bob,

Thanks for the encouragement. This is a place that's easy for me to get to, and my long-term goal is a complete-as-I-can-get list of every tree-sized plant with maximum dimensions for each species. This has been a sort of experiment and learning experience for me, not just in terms of measuring and its challenges, but also identifying individual species, habitats, variations in appearance, and growth habits. I really enjoy doing this, and I'm sure it's the same for you in your favorite, close-to-home places. Now, if only I could get down to Zoar Valley more often...

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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ElijahW
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Re: Howland's Island

Post by ElijahW » Sat Nov 02, 2013 8:31 pm

NTS,

Here's a quick update on my Howland's Island project.

1. The 129' tulip tree has been confirmed to 130'+ with a straight-up laser shot. My guess is that it's 134-135' with lots of life ahead of it (and hopefully vertical growth).
2. Hemlock has yet to break 100', but I measured four very healthy trees at 88', 93.3', 93.7', and 94', in addition to the 96.8' specimen already documented.
3. Two black willows, at 12'3" and 11'9", respectively, join the 10'+ CBH club. These trees are both single-stem. Silver maple will certainly also make the cut, when I get around to measuring one.

Here's a picture of a nice-sized cucumber magnolia leaf I stumbled on:
032.JPG
Cheers,
Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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dbhguru
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Re: Howland's Island

Post by dbhguru » Sun Nov 03, 2013 12:01 pm

Elijah,

I can relate to your pursuit of Howland's Island as a long term study site. After a sufficient number of visits to give one the 'measure' of each species growing on a site, a feeling of deep satisfaction sets in. It becomes that person's site. One's appreciation for the site grows.

Site-based pursuits allow us as Ents to make our best contributions. I've seen so many descriptions of woodlands where one are two numbers are sprinkled in a narrative by a writer that gives a completely wrong impression. Stay at it, our friend.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Howland's Island

Post by Jess Riddle » Sun Nov 03, 2013 6:22 pm

Elijah,

Glad you're still getting out and measuring more species on Howland Island. The diversity and productivity are both impressive for the region.

Those willows are almost certainly crack willow or some hybrid with crack willow. They are common on the island, and I have not seen any black willows around there.

Jess

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ElijahW
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Re: Howland's Island

Post by ElijahW » Sun Nov 03, 2013 6:51 pm

Jess,

Thanks. I had not considered crack willow, but, looking more closely, you're right. The bark doesn't match black willow, for sure. I should have been more careful and not made an assumption. I'll be updating the entry I made in the tree database post-haste.

If you get up here sometime, I'd still like to get out there with you. Thanks again.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Howland's Island

Post by Jess Riddle » Sun Nov 03, 2013 7:28 pm

Elijah,

I've heard that same id mistake made repeatedly, so you're not alone. The Asian willows seem to be widespread but poorly known in the Northeast. The glaucous leaf undersides are a good way to separate them from black willow.

I'd love to take you up on that offer, but I'm no longer living in Syracuse. I'll let you know if I'm passing through though.

Jess

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