Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

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Erik Danielsen
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Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

Post by Erik Danielsen » Fri Apr 22, 2016 5:49 pm

Shu Swamp is one of two Long Island sites written up in Ancient Forests of the Northeast, and deservingly so. Both impressively old and impressively large trees are found here. Most of the preserve is low, swampy forest and many of the trails partially boardwalks. In the northwestern corner is a section of dryer sloped upland, historically a chestnut-dominated stand but in the place of which tuliptrees have shot upwards (many of which are technically just outside of the preserve, on the other side of a chainlink fence). One of these was erroneously measured by Dan Karpen to 169'. After learning about clinometer errors, he asked a professional surveyor to remeasure it, who put it at 154' or so, still very tall but not the state's tallest.
The tallest Tulip measured at Shu Swamp is front and center here.
The tallest Tulip measured at Shu Swamp is front and center here.
Entering the preserve early in the morning two ospreys departed from a tall tuliptree over the trail and wheeled around above me for some time. The low forest along the north edge of the preserve is not especially interesting, but the richness of the flora on the ground is incredible. Over a dozen fern species, numerous spring ephemerals, and even dwarf ginseng here and there, packed into a wet landscape dominated by a green blanket of skunk cabbage. The tall tuliptree is quick to get to. The whole slope is covered in very tall tuliptrees (as well as large trees of a couple other species), though the tallest ones are rooted near the bottom of the slope. I measured 6 over 150'. The tree marked with a sign attached to the fence as "the state's tallest" is, indeed, the tallest one I measured in the bunch- though it's also the one I spent the most time on. There are many I left unmeasured in the area, and it's not impossible that one of them (or a hidden top on one I did measure) breaks 160'. Girths were 3-4'dbh generally. These are not old-growth, and are very much still rising upward. Pressed for time, I didn't really do the non-tulip species here justice.
Tuliptree
157.3 just behind the tallest at Zoar!
156.3
154.4
154.1
154
153.7
145.4
145
144.6
Red Maple
103.6
Northern Red Oak
117.8/13'cbh
117.7
114.7
107.5
The open swamp forest
The open swamp forest
The southern portion of the preserve transitions into a more open swamp forest, dominated by enormous, ancient tuliptrees mostly in the 130' range, many with gnarled and broken crowns. Species like beech, oaks, and hickories root on some of the dryer spots, but in the more open environment competition is less intense. Older reports mention huge white ash, but I saw just one, a spreading rather than upright form. Very aged Black Tupelo can be found here but is not especially large. A bit of sycamore grows at the south end, along with apparently native Sweetbay Magnolia. Black ash, very uncommon here, was also a nice surprise. A variety of other species are mentioned in other reports on the site- there's clearly a lot there that I wasn't able to get to this time.
American Beech
98
97.5
White Ash
95.6
Black Ash
80
Black Tupelo
98.3/6.4'cbh
94.8
93.7
Tuliptree
132.3
127.2
Sweetbay Magnolia
56.9 spindly trunk maybe 6"dbh
Sycamore
102.1
Black Oak
96.4
Sweetbay magnolia has an interesting semi-evergreen habit in this climate.
Sweetbay magnolia has an interesting semi-evergreen habit in this climate.
Black Tupelo trunks
Black Tupelo trunks

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ElijahW
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Re: Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

Post by ElijahW » Fri Apr 22, 2016 7:39 pm

Erik,

Very cool to finally see photos of the Shu Swamp tulips. The growth form of these trees is reminiscent of sites up here like Green Lakes and Smith Woods with pure stands of tuliptrees. From what I've seen, Zoar doesn't have these pure stands; even the tallest trees are growing with many other species of hardwoods. Do you think the older tulips were once this tall, as well? And to our southern friends, are your tallest tulips typically in pure or nearly pure stands like this one?

Thanks follow 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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dbhguru
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Re: Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

Post by dbhguru » Sat Apr 23, 2016 7:44 am

Erik,

If we hadn't already been prepared for some impressive numbers, your Shu Swamp report would be a real show stopper. I wonder how many other nooks and crannies down there hold surprises. You and Elijah are winning NY's big tree respect back. In terms of state height maximums in the Northeast, we now have:


State Species Height

PA WP 183.0 (possibly 184)
MA WP 173.0
NH WP 166.2 (probably more by now)
NY TT 157.3
CT TT 155.0
ME WP 152.5
VT WP 150.0
NJ TT 150+ (I have one at 150, and I think John Harvey has one a little over 150)

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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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sat Apr 23, 2016 8:54 am

Bob, don't forget Elijah's 157.8' TT from Zoar this past fall! It does edge the shu swamp tree by a hair. Tall trees may slow down with the leaves coming on but I think we've got plenty of good stuff to find yet.

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dbhguru
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Re: Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

Post by dbhguru » Sat Apr 23, 2016 1:06 pm

Erik,

Oops, your right. Sorry Elijah. Zoar still rules.

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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Matt Markworth
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Re: Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

Post by Matt Markworth » Sat Apr 23, 2016 7:37 pm

Erik,

Wow, those tuliptrees are impressive! That photo really shows the competition in the height race and the tallest one appears to be reaching up and up.

Matt

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Apr 27, 2016 9:11 am

ElijahW wrote:Erik,

Very cool to finally see photos of the Shu Swamp tulips. The growth form of these trees is reminiscent of sites up here like Green Lakes and Smith Woods with pure stands of tuliptrees. From what I've seen, Zoar doesn't have these pure stands; even the tallest trees are growing with many other species of hardwoods. Do you think the older tulips were once this tall, as well? And to our southern friends, are your tallest tulips typically in pure or nearly pure stands like this one?

Thanks follow for sharing,

Elijah
I suspect the older tulips probably topped out in the 140s- they're on a flat, wet site where I suspect blowdown may have tempered light competition. In Welwyn I'm definitely planning on looking at dryer slopes with a high Tulip stem density for the tallest trees, especially at the base of the slopes as the tallest specimens reach to compete with tulips rooted higher up- it definitely seems like that type of topography with mostly-pure stands of tulips creates the tallest specimens. That's also the setup for the tall tulips in Tiffany Creek and Inwood. Zoar's terraces-within-a-steep-canyon topography sets it apart. Do Green Lakes and Smith woods have a similar topographic influence boosting the tulips, or are they flat? I have suspicions that tall hemlocks are another factor that can stimulate tall tulip growth, as you've mentioned from Green Lakes.

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Lucas
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Re: Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

Post by Lucas » Wed Apr 27, 2016 10:18 am

No Swamp White Oak in a swamp?
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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ElijahW
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Re: Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

Post by ElijahW » Wed Apr 27, 2016 4:07 pm

Erik,

I have several thoughts on this subject, but first I'll compare Green Lakes to Smith Woods. The Smith Woods tulips are likely at least fifty years younger than their rivals at Green Lakes, and have much smaller crowns. The topography of Green Lakes makes sense for tall trees in general, as the tallest grow essentially in a wind-protected bowl; Smith Woods is pretty flat, except for a small gully, and sits on the high ground between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, with little to no protection from the wind. Both sites have old, large hemlocks, but the tallest of each species do not grow in the same areas.

I don't know if a direct relationship exists between tall tulips and tall hemlocks, or if both occurrences are the products of old, relatively undisturbed forest. I've seen a clear relationship between tall tulips and tall hickories, but it's not as clear with hemlocks. Your question is an excellent one, but I don't know the answer to it. My theory is that the best competition for tulips is other tulips.

I was reading an old post by Ed Frank recently about Lidar, and he wrote that Dale Luthringer's observation on where the tallest trees were likely to be found was at the bottom of slopes, between too-steep and too-wet terrain. I think this is what you're seeing around NYC, and what is pretty obvious at Zoar. Changes in topography are one of the things I look for in searching for tall trees, and I think we're both on the right tract (sic) in our approaches. This factor is what is drawing me to the Catskills recently, and the Southern Tier in general.

Happy hunting,

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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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Shu Swamp Preserve, Nassau County

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Aug 24, 2016 9:06 am

On 8/21, after an exciting visit to Alley Pond Park in Queens, Ryan LeClair and I made the 30-minute drive (convenient that all these pockets of big trees are so close together!) out to Shu Swamp to see if we couldn't find a viewing window to the season's fresh growth that might put the tallest tuliptree at 158'. While I lost my notebook on the way home, I spent enough time doing the math that a lot of the numbers remain in my head. The tallest I could get from the tallest tulip was 156.5, which was frustrating- I was shooting the undersides of the leaves at the bottom of the highest cluster. Good viewing windows were harder to find than I had hoped. Ryan wrapped the tree to 12'3"cbh, though this is qualified by the tree's status as a double, as displayed in the photo. Ryan estimates without the fused stem he'd probably get 10'6"cbh out of the tallest tulip.
The base of the tallest tulip
The base of the tallest tulip
The rest of these heights are approximate due to both the vagueries of memory and the fact that true tops were pretty much impossible to find. The most exciting find of this visit was a seemingly unimposing Northern Red Oak that turned out to be not less than 123.6' tall (the only other measurement I can remember down to the tenths). A hunched black oak surprised me at >108', and two more tuliptrees I had not previously measured came out at >148' and >143'. There's a little ravine running down to the slope with tall tulips that I hadn't noticed before, in which the red oak and >148' tulip were located, that has strong potential for more tall trees. Definitely not an easy site with the leaves on, though.

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