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Re: Letchworth State Park

Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:54 pm
by Erik Danielsen
Great stuff! I'm intrigued by that sycamore's combination of height and girth- what's the form and overall mass like?

A 150' tree (or trees) can't be too far off. That these upland trees are so tall is really suggestive of the growth potential in Letchworth. I get the impression that the terraces may have less wind protection and more disturbance history than zoar, but I wouldn't put money on either one having a higher index in their presettlement state.

Re: Letchworth State Park

Posted: Mon Oct 22, 2018 9:48 am
by ElijahW

The Sycamore grows in an almost pure stand, but is much larger than the sycamores around it. I don’t think it’s a very old tree, and its form suggests that it grew without much competition for a long time. The crown probably makes up a disproportionate share of the overall height, and the total volume I don’t think will be that impressive. I should have taken a picture, but I didn’t.


Re: Letchworth State Park

Posted: Mon Apr 29, 2019 6:35 pm
by ElijahW

This afternoon, I returned to Letchworth and the main tall-tree area near the Lower Falls. I found and measured a few new trees, but one stood out above the rest, both literally and figuratively. The Pignut Hickory I reported on last year that I thought might be the NY champion decidedly is not. Another Pignut (which also shows some characteristics of Red Hickory) a short distance away has nearly identical dimensions as the listed NY champion, nominated by Douglas Bassett in 2012. Here are some photos I took with my phone (I’ll get better ones later):
Today’s measurements:

Pignut Hickory Carya glabra

151.4’ x 10.45’

Bitternut Hickory Carya cordiformis

134.0’ x 8.22’

Cucumber Magnolia Magnolia acuminata

131.4’ x 6.7’

Sugar Maple Acer saccharum

126.0’ x 9.29’

White Pine Pinus strobus

149.1’ x 7.83’ (better measurement of previously listed tree)

Current Rucker Index for Letchworth State Park:

Pignut Hickory 151.4’
Eastern White Pine 149.1’
Tuliptree 147.7’
American Sycamore 142.6’
Eastern Hemlock 134.3’
Bitternut Hickory 134.0’
Cucumber Magnolia 131.4’
Shagbark Hickory 131.1’
American Basswood 127.3’
Sugar Maple 126.0’

Average: 137.4’

The total leaves out any planted exotic species, like Norway Spruce or Douglas-Fir, and White Ash. The Sycamore is the only tree growing on a river-side terrace.


Re: Letchworth State Park

Posted: Wed May 01, 2019 9:04 am
by bbeduhn
Wow, those are some serious numbers! That hickory is a beautiful tree. It certainly does look like a red. I never would have expected a 150 footer in New York for either species.

Re: Letchworth State Park

Posted: Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:26 pm
by ElijahW

It’s good to be back on the BBS. Hopefully someone will read these posts. I already talk to myself more than I should.

Since my last post, I was able to explore one of the stream-side terraces at the bottom of Letchworth’s gorge. The forest it contains ranges from younger floodplain species like Cottonwood and Sycamore to older Sugar Maples, Beeches, and Hemlocks. Like Zoar Valley’s terraces, these are still being shaped by the ebb and flow of the Genessee River. This particular terrace appears to have never been logged, and may contain a handful of fairly old trees.

Here are the trees measured on the unnamed terrace:


141.3’ x 10.38’

Eastern Cottonwood


White Ash


American Beech

115.6’ x 9.11’

The Rucker Index for Letchworth is currently just shy of 139’; however, taller specimens of both Cottonwood and White Ash are very likely, and I’m confident that the Index will exceed 140’ in the near future. Also of note is the presence of Black Maple on at least one terrace, growing in similar conditions to those in Zoar.


Re: Letchworth State Park

Posted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:08 pm
by Erik Danielsen
Great finds. Letchworth has so much ground to cover! Have you seen any Balsam Poplar among the younger trees in successional floodplain there? It's showed up abundantly in the Chautauqua Gorge, and when I was recently there with a botanist who's going to be working on an up-to-date flora of new york state we also found Populus x jackii, a hybrid of Balsam and Cottonwood. Looking back at notes Diggins made on Zoar in 2003, he confirmed Balsam Poplar in similar habitat just downstream of Point Peter. This is all starting to suggest that Balsam Poplar, like the known populations of Red Pine and Roughleaf Dogwood, has disjunct natural populations in WNY's great lakes gorges that are poorly documented, if at all. If you find any in Letchworth, that would be an exciting addition to the picture that's developing.

Re: Letchworth State Park

Posted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:49 pm
by ElijahW

Thanks. I haven’t seen any Balsam Poplar in Letchworth, but every now and again I’ll spot a colony in the area south of Syracuse and the Mohawk Valley. They seem to like wet sites at elevations around 1500’. Tom Howard first pointed out these trees to me a few years ago. Much of the gorge bottom in Letchworth isn’t accessible by foot, and a lot of the forest there has been disturbed, but I’m sure it’s hiding some gems.

I’ve seen Roughleaf Dogwood in one the Finger Lakes sites I surveyed, but I don’t recall which one. I had to work through a key to figure out what it was.


Re: Letchworth State Park

Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2020 6:30 pm
by ElijahW

Yesterday (3/5) I spent several hours combing over the best spots for big trees I’m aware of in the Middle and Lower Falls areas of Letchworth. I was also able to get down close to the river to remeasure the tallest Sycamore. I have two exciting pieces of news to share: Letchworth now has NY’s second Rucker Index in the 140s (140.0); and Letchworth also now has three species exceeding 150’ in height. Here’s what I measured:

Octagon Cabin Cove:

Pignut Hickory Carya glabra

153.4’ x 10.57’

Shagbark Hickory Carya ovata

132.4’ x 6.66’

Bitternut Hickory Carya cordiformis

131.5’ x 8.27’ (lost ~2.5’ in height from last measurement)

White Oak Quercus alba

122.4’ x 8.73’

Northern Red Oak Quercus rubra

114.5’ x 14.13’

Black Oak Quercus velutina

113.6’ x 6.19’

American Beech Fagus grandifolia

104.5’ x 5.42’

Tuliptree Liriodendron tulipifera

138.5’ x 10.14’
136.2’ x 10.48’

Cucumber Magnolia Magnolia acuminata

131.8’ x 6.72’

Sugar Maple Acer saccharum

127.3’ x 8.12’

Red Maple Acer rubrum

109.3’ x 5.43’

White Ash Fraxinus americana

130.0’ x 8.63’

Eastern White Pine Pinus strobus

149.2’ x 7.94’

Eastern Hemlock Tsuga canadensis

127.1’ x 7.02’
110.5’ x 6.09’

I was able to count the growth rings on a fallen and cut White Oak near the road in this section and came up with approximately 143 rings at a height of 5’. I don’t know if ~150 years is a good approximate age for the whole stand of trees, but it’s a start at gathering reliable data.

Council Grounds Cove



White Ash


Eastern White Pine

153.5’ x 7.87’
151.6’ x 8.53’

Eastern Hemlock

134.3’ x 7.38’ (no change)

Lower Falls Access Trail & Riverside Terrace


150.6’ x 10.14’

American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis

143.3’ x 12.06’

Letchworth State Park Rucker Index:

Eastern White Pine 153.5’
Pignut Hickory 153.4’
Tuliptree 150.6’
American Sycamore 143.3’
White Ash 137.1’
Eastern Hemlock 134.3’
Shagbark Hickory 132.4’
Eastern Cottonwood 132.3’
Cucumber Magnolia 131.8’
Bitternut Hickory 131.5’

Average: 140.0’


Re: Letchworth State Park

Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2020 3:45 pm
by dbhguru

Holy Toledo! You are unstoppable. Two NY sites with RHIs of 140 or higher. The pignut is a real find.Congratulations. We need to do an article for American Forests on the your and Erik's finds.


Re: Letchworth State Park

Posted: Mon Apr 27, 2020 2:18 pm
by ElijahW

The tree survey I've been working on in Letchworth State Park for the past two years or so is pretty well wrapped up. I think that most of the accessible forest (upland, slope, and floodplain) that held promise for superlative trees has been combed through. I'll continue to visit the park from time to time and search new areas, and more measurements and updates will continue to trickle into the BBS in the future, but for now I'm satisfied with my results.

In the Google Earth image capture below, I've highlighted the area in which all of my measurements were made. I explored areas outside of the circle, but didn't find anything significant.
Letchworth State Park Overview Image.JPG
As of today (4/27/20) here is the Rucker Height Index for Letchworth State Park:

Eastern White Pine Pinus strobus: 153.5'
Pignut Hickory Carya glabra: 153.4'
Tuliptree Liriodendron tulipifera: 150.6'
American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis: 143.3'
Red Hickory Carya ovalis: 142.7'
Shagbark Hickory Carya ovata: 140.5'
White Ash Fraxinus americana: 139.2'
Norway Spruce Picea abies: 138.4'
Eastern Hemlock Tsuga canadensis: 134.3'
Bitternut Hickory Carya cordiformis: 134.2'

Average: 143.0'

The alluvial terraces (concentrated in the northern portion of the park) that look promising from atop the gorge were a little bit of a letdown. This was likely due to the Genessee River's history of flooding, especially since it was dammed at Mt. Morris in the mid-twentieth century. Acre upon acre of floodplain is covered with just three species of tree: Populus deltoides, Platanus occidentalis, and some variety of Salix. The understory is devoid of shrubs, and the ground cover is tall (now matted down) grass. The average tree heights on these large river terraces seem to be about 105' for Sycamore and 100' for Cottonwood, and the maximums about 125' and 120', respectively. It seems to me that most, if not all, mature trees in this downstream area were wiped out in the flood of 1972, which was caused by Hurricane Agnes.

Within the narrower confines of the upstream gorge (nearer the waterfalls), I did find one small terrace on either side of the river that appears to contain at least some old growth. On the Wyoming County side, this terrace is populated by Sugar Maple, Beech, Tuliptree, Cottonwood, and Hemlock (similar to many of the Zoar Valley terraces). On the Livingston County side, the older terrace also contains Hemlock and Sugar Maple, but has a large concentration of oaks and hickories, as well as a handful of Black Maples. The most interesting trees on the Livingston County terrace are a trio of large and old-appearing Quercus muehlenbergii, averaging over 100' tall and 10' CBH.

I don't believe that any of the upland areas I surveyed were truly old-growth, although several tracts likely date to the early or mid-19th century. I'd be glad to be proven wrong about this statement, but I haven't seen more than 150 growth rings on any fallen and cut trees, and several have had less than 100.

I've attached below an Excel spreadsheet containing significant trees measured within the park. Many have GPS coordinates, but some do not. A copy of this spreadsheet will also be sent to the park's naturalist.

Enjoy, and be Well,

Letchworth State Park Significant Trees.xlsx
(13.63 KiB) Downloaded 18 times