Great Trees of the Bronx

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Erik Danielsen
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Great Trees of the Bronx

Post by Erik Danielsen » Thu Jan 21, 2016 10:07 pm

NYC's northernmost Borough, the Bronx (Kings County), does not lack for charismatic megaflora. Pelham Bay Park, as previously reported on, is home to big-tree hardwood old growth as well as ancient stunted trees on coastal stone outcroppings. Van Cortlandt park, the forest at NYBG and an assortment of other small parks also contain forests I look forward to measuring. Like the other boroughs, though, some of the very most impressive trees in the Bronx are not in forested parks but occupying street margins, manicured landscapes, and small private parcels, and this thread will be for them.

On sunday 1/17 I met David Burg of WildMetro and Zihao Wang, a botanist who he often works with, and took a tree of several trees David felt I should see. When it comes to big trees in NYC, David is one of the best resources around. First we went to visit the White Oak of Mosholu, which likely began life as a field tree in the early period of NYC's colonization. There are an assortment of white oaks of progressively younger age surrounding it, some probably its descendants. This tree is right on the border between an area of parkland in younger forest and open fields, and a dense residential area. Traffic passes continuously below its outstretched branches. It's not in great shape, but also has not been attacked with a chainsaw.

White Oak of Mosholu: 75' tall, 15.2'cbh, 85.2'ACS, 105' maximum spread.
The White Oak of Mosholu, with Zihao
The White Oak of Mosholu, with Zihao
After that we drove to Woodlawn Cemetery. Woodlawn is home to a number of interesting trees, actually, mostly exotics. An american holly that we drove past is definitely on my to-measure list, though, seemingly well over 50 feet, about 2'dbh and a beautiful conical shape. The Parks Department acknowledges a number of trees from this cemetery on their "Great Trees" page, and describes the great white oak as the cemetery's oldest tree, which is likely true. It also describes the tree as being 90' tall, 64.2" in diameter, and with an average crown spread of 82 feet. http://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/great-trees?id=32

As measured 1/17 the white oak of woodlawn cemetery is 83.1' tall, 16.7'cbh (63.9"dbh), 124.5' in average crown spread and 141' maximum crown spread. Here it seems Parks wasn't actually that far off in their height measurement (would be a reasonable tangent error), though their spread measurement makes me wonder. I worked with 12 spokes and would be hard-pressed to find a single reasonable point where the spread was as little as 82 feet. This tree is seemingly a bit younger than the Granny Oak of Pelham Bay but still quite aged. It's well taken-care of in that there are cables supporting some of its further-spread limbs. An undeniably gorgeous tree that would be worth including on any "tree tour" of the city.
The Great White Oak of Woodlawn with Zihao for scale.
The Great White Oak of Woodlawn with Zihao for scale.
Continuing, we drove to see the Spuyten Duyvil Giant tuliptree, in the backyard of one of David's nearby neighbors. A small piece of wooded land between the residences, privately owned, was stocked thoroughly with tall, straight tulip, sweetgum, and oak. The Spuyten Duyvil Giant is currently the listed NYS champion tuliptree, so it was time to see how this specimen stacks up against the Clove Lakes Colossus in Staten Island.
The Spuyten Duyvil Giant, with Zihao at the base.
The Spuyten Duyvil Giant, with Zihao at the base.
The Giant measures 120.7' tall, 19.2'cbh (230.7"cbh) and 91.8'acs, with a maximum measured spread of 97.2'. This tree's location on a steep slope in a small patch of green between multiple residences made it a challenge to satisfyingly measure. The crown spread in particular was limited to 4 "spokes" shooting out from the trunk to constitute two perpendicular axes, with the longer axis taken as maximum spread. I am more confident on the height being at or near the actual top. From another vantage point I measured a clear view of the tree's top down to one of the lowest major branches to be 92'. The height of the trunk below that branch to the tree's base can't be much more than 30', based on the photographs (I will verify in the future, but our time was cut short before I could return to the base of the tree). The 2013 measurements for the champion listing have the tree at 219"cbh (reason to believe the tree might have grown this fast), 142' tall (probably tangent error), and 100'acs, which doesn't seem too unreasonable considering my own numbers and challenges. The old measurements put the tree at 386 points. My measurements put it at 374. The Clove Lakes tree is at 433; I'll have to put in the nomination. The Spuyten Duyvil Giant is nonetheless of a remarkable size and beautiful form, and all the more unique for its residential situation.
The shapes in the crown are mesmerizing; heavy balding on the upslope side, well into the crown, and lightning cables installed after a strike years ago reflect this veteran's persistence in the face of adversity.
The shapes in the crown are mesmerizing; heavy balding on the upslope side, well into the crown, and lightning cables installed after a strike years ago reflect this veteran's persistence in the face of adversity.
Lastly, just above and across the street from the giant tulip is a wonderful old Black Oak right where the street borders the lawn (with a few more nice specimen trees on it) of some large institutional building. This oak was also well worth measuring! 87.1' tall, 15.3'cbh and 109'acs, with a maximum spread of 122'. My encounters with black oak have been relatively limited but this is the greatest spread I have encountered on one. Sadly I didn't think to take a picture since at that point we were in a rush.

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Great Trees of the Bronx

Post by Larry Tucei » Fri Jan 22, 2016 4:11 pm

Erik- Wow those are some really large city trees! That Crown spread of 140 rivals the some of the great Live Oaks down south. White Oak and Tulip are two of only a few of the trees in the northeast that can be over 20' CBH. Congrats to you and your friends on the finds. Larry

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Lucas
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Re: Great Trees of the Bronx

Post by Lucas » Fri Jan 22, 2016 4:29 pm

this thread will be for them.
Looking forward to it!
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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dbhguru
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Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:34 pm

Re: Great Trees of the Bronx

Post by dbhguru » Fri Jan 22, 2016 8:21 pm

Erik,

We hope to soon see you posing next to a large tree in the company of at least two Metropolitean Opera stars. Gotta happen. Seriously, super job you are doing in the Big Apple.

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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