Alley Pond Park and the Queens Giant

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Erik Danielsen
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Alley Pond Park and the Queens Giant

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Aug 24, 2016 10:03 am

Sunday 8/21 Connecticut ENT Ryan LeClair was kind enough to meet up with me at Alley Pond Park in the borough of Queens to finally remeasure the fabled Queens Giant Tuliptree. In the time since Bob and Bruce measured this tree for the New York Times article "A Rendzevous with Two Giants," content-recycling news websites have put out articles every few years describing this tree as NYC's oldest and tallest living thing, often referencing as well its Staten Island rival- typically describing the former as "just" 119' tall and ~21'cbh. As we have seen, in actuality the Staten Island tree now exceeds 127' in height and 23.5' in circumference. On top of that, the Queens Giant's 133.8' height in 2000 we now know is a far cry from the city's tallest (151+ in Inwood!). Nonetheless, the Queens Giant undoubtedly remains one of the city's most charismatic trees and certainly high on the list of potentially oldest. With its cylindrical bole ascending to a high crown it's also still quite possibly got the highest stem volume (to be determined once I eventually get a reticle). After 16 years, it was finally time to update its known dimensions- 133.8' and 18.6'cbh in 2000.
I'm at the base of the Giant for scale; unfortunately I wasn't paying attention to the camera settings and some images came out blurry
I'm at the base of the Giant for scale; unfortunately I wasn't paying attention to the camera settings and some images came out blurry
From a viewpoint where I can be reasonably sure I hit the top, the Queens Giant comes in at 132.7' tall in 2016. For this tree's age and gnarl factor it's impressive that it hasn't lost much height at all. A couple large neighboring trees have come down in recent years- whether the exposure is making the giant more vulnerable to wind or blessing it with extra sunlight (or both) is an open question. The girth now comes to 19.8' cbh. It's quite a tree!
The hollow inside the base is enormous and charred
The hollow inside the base is enormous and charred
The thick-limbed crown of the Queens Giant
The thick-limbed crown of the Queens Giant
The very interesting thing about its longstanding coronation in the public realm as New York City's "tallest tree" is that growing just south and slightly uphill from the Giant is a thinner tulip that now becomes NYC's tallest measured tree outside of Inwood Hill. At 14.9'cbh it's still quite respectable in girth but from Ryan's straight-up shot of 47 yards from the uphill side of the base of the tree, it can reasonably be claimed that this specimen is, incredibly, not less than 147' tall. The best I could get from a more distant vantage point was 141', but there are no good views of the top of the crown with the leaves on. Another very impressive tulip nearby came to 134.8' from the viewpoints I could find. The slopes of the "bowl" the Queens Giant sits in have plenty of further tall tree potential that will have to wait for leaf-drop.
The base of the taller, younger tulip
The base of the taller, younger tulip
The side-trail to the Giant is quite hidden by overgrowth and we initially continued quite a ways past it on the paved trail, measuring trees as we went. Numerous tulips, oaks, beech, and hickories are in excellent form along the trail. Ryan measured a Black oak to 12'9"cbh (~95' tall) and numerous tulips exceeded 3'dbh. Tulip heights here ranged from 115-130', though heights of other species were more modest. One tulip on a slope exceeded 5'dbh and 110' tall, though the exact numbers are unknown; unfortunately after quite a bit of searching I've determined that I must have left my notebook on the bus, so most of these numbers are now lost. Luckily the numbers on the most exciting trees are still crisp in memory (and reported above).

In another section of the park, south of the expressway, very old second-growth hardwoods form a very pleasing forest that hosts some impressive trees as well. Ryan wanted to show me several exceptional oaks that he had hiked down to while waiting for me to arrive, and the largest of these came to 13'2" cbh (maybe Ryan remembers the number) and 106.7' in height. A slightly thinner red oak a little ways up the trail was a touch taller, though the exact number is lost to me. This forest would be worth some measurement after leafdrop as well. The growth displayed here also makes me excited to check out the old white pine stand in Forest Park, on similar soils nearby.
The big red oak. Others had impressive burls
The big red oak. Others had impressive burls
After this we visited Shu Swamp, which I've posted the numbers from in that thread. Thanks to Ryan for driving down and I look forward to future excursions!

edit: added in some numbers Ryan was able to remember

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Matt Markworth
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Re: Alley Pond Park and the Queens Giant

Post by Matt Markworth » Sat Aug 27, 2016 12:34 pm

Erik,

Wow, amazing stuff. You're shedding a lot of light on the status of forests in NYC. Very, very cool.

Matt

MarkGraham
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Re: Alley Pond Park and the Queens Giant

Post by MarkGraham » Sat Aug 27, 2016 2:21 pm

Thank you. An impressive tall and big tree area. I like the photos a lot and also how you bring volume into the survey, which isn't done that often since it is so time consuming to do accurately. In the future maybe volume can be done with the assistance of a quad copter ("drone"). Forestry companies are already using quad copter imagery to do surveys of both standing timber and to inventory cut timber and other forestry products such as piles of wood chips.

ryandallas
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Re: Alley Pond Park and the Queens Giant

Post by ryandallas » Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:18 pm

Great post, Erik! If only we had the girth for that shorter, trail-side TT. That was the second-thickest tree. I think that was the 15'11" tree.

The red oaks by the hardtop baseball field were impressive, but beyond them lay only unimpressive second-growth, needle-thin, tightly-packed and swimming in multifloral rose. Great trees may have been just around the bend in the trail, but I'm skeptical. We probably hit all of the best spots.

--Ryan

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Alley Pond Park and the Queens Giant

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Aug 31, 2016 8:33 am

Ryan, I agree, the good second-growth is probably limited to the stuff we walked through. That whole slope leading down to the glacial kettle pond seems pretty productive. Based on the few heights I did take I suspect there might be some decent height in some of the skinnier, less "impressive" trees- it reminds me of a similar but smaller slope in a park on Staten Island, where the impressive large red oaks and tulips are of moderate height, but beanpole hickories hang in the 120' range poking up between them. Winter will tell!

ryandallas
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Re: Alley Pond Park and the Queens Giant

Post by ryandallas » Wed Aug 31, 2016 11:54 am

Erik, you're correct. I tend to be a little hyperbolic ;) The slopes near the pond were very fecund.

That trip was a lot of fun. Know of any other spots we can check out?

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Alley Pond Park and the Queens Giant

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Aug 31, 2016 11:59 am

Definitely! The next few weeks are a bit hectic but as we slide into October let's plan some more excursions. And don't forget about the workshop on October 15, if you can make it.

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Alley Pond Park and the Queens Giant

Post by Larry Tucei » Thu Sep 01, 2016 4:39 pm

Erik- Great job on updating the Queens Giant Poplar what a majestic tree! Can't wait to see the winter height results. I looked up the old article so our newest members could take a look at it. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/11/10/arts/ ... wanted=all Larry

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