Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Moderators: edfrank, dbhguru

User avatar
Erik Danielsen
Posts: 872
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:46 pm

Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:43 pm

The terminal stretch of Chautauqua County's Canadaway Creek (upper reaches discussed here: http://ents-bbs.org/viewtopic.php?f=105&t=7888) runs through a section of floodplain forest before joining Lake Erie. A large portion of this forest was previously protected by the Nature Conservancy, as the Canadaway Creek Wildlife Refuge, but has since been transferred to the DEC. I'm not clear on why, but the understory is heavily occupied by invasive species, so perhaps they felt they should prioritize other, more intact sites. The site is a major public fishing access point and is also well regarded for birding.

The Roger Tory Peterson Natural History atlas (which is heavily oriented towards birds) says only this with regards to vegetation: "The banks along Canadaway Creek are lined with mature Black Willow trees that form the canopy over a Floodplain that includes Speckled Alder and Ostrich Fern as well as dense thickets of Japanese Knotweed." Not terribly promising. Fortunately the reality is much more interesting. Cottonwood is the dominant canopy in most sections, along with Sycamore, Black Walnut, Northern Red Oak in slightly drier spots, Silver Maple, Basswood, and Black Locust. Mid and understory species include some excellent Box Elder, Salix sp (possibly black willow, crack willow, or hybrid, I'm waiting to sort out the ID), white and green ash, american and slippery elms, black maple, norway maple, black cherry, bird cherry, horse-chestnut, hawthorns, spicebush, and an incredibly robust population of Tartarian Honeysuckle, which is of course an invasive that has indeed completely overtaken most of the native ecology in large swathes of the floodplain. Closer to the lake shore NYS endangered Wafer Ash (Ptelea trifoliata) can also be found.
The typical floodplain scene. Many sections get washed through heavily every spring.
The typical floodplain scene. Many sections get washed through heavily every spring.
In addition to these are three species of particular interest: Butternut, which in this population all appear to have hybrid genetics with Japanese Walnut (whether true F1 Buarts or backcrossed to something closer to Butternut), Rock Elm, which is a NYS threatened species and not previously reported in Chautauqua County, and Honey Locust. Why is Honey Locust in this paragraph and not the one before? The Canadaway Creek population raises some interesting questions. I'll be getting to all three species of interest after the map and measurements.
The largest red oak and its slightly smaller twin, which is falling apart.
The largest red oak and its slightly smaller twin, which is falling apart.
In terms of height this site seems fairly average, with some nice tall trees but most maxing out in the vicinity of 100'. This will make a good point of comparison for similar sites, such as the outlet of Chautauqua Creek in Barcelona and the floodplain of Eighteenmile Creek in Angola. The disturbance history is hard to be sure of- the oldest large oaks, cottonwoods, walnuts, and probably rock elm are of decent age and are of intermediate growth form, clearly having grown up with an open canopy of the same sort that exists now. I wouldn't take bets on any one tree of the bunch being over 150 year old, but I wouldn't put money on all of them being younger than that either. Two possibilities seem most likely- that the disturbance regime has always been mainly hydrological, with only minimal removal of occasional trees of value or for firewood, due to the land being entirely unsuitable for farming and standing timber circa 1800 being of lesser quality than primary forests of the surrounding uplands OR that some significant clearing of timber occurred fairly early in the area's settlement history, pre-1850, with the vegetation regenerating largely without human interference since then. Indirect disturbances like Dutch Elm Disease and invasive plants washing down from gardens, lawns and farms upstream have had a large impact, of course.
Letter locations key to tree data
Letter locations key to tree data
Eastern Cottonwood
115.76' / 9.45'cbh (A)
115.5' / 10.56'cbh (D)
113' / 8.82'cbh (D)
113' / 8.1'cbh (A)
110' / 10'cbh (D)
109' / 10.56'cbh (D)
108.61' / 14.4'cbh (A)
107.5' / 10'cbh (D)
106.5' / 7.9'cbh (A)
99.5' / 15.28'cbh (A)
American Sycamore
113.5' / 10.76'cbh (C)
108' / 10.46'cbh (C)
Rock Elm
105.13' / 6.8'cbh (A) state max height
85' / 5.48'cbh (A)
Black Walnut
103' / 11.02'cbh (B)
102.28' / 8.92'cbh (A)
Black Locust
101.5' / 8.69'cbh (A)
Northern Red Oak
99.5' / 13.28'cbh (A)
Honey Locust
96.5' / 6.0'cbh (B)
95.5' / 6.18'cbh (B)
Silver Maple
92.5' / 10.8'cbh (D)
91' / 5.97'cbh (D)
Butternut
91.02' / 9.97'cbh (E)
83' / 7.71'cbh (A)
75' / 6.92'cbh (C)
70' / 8.82'cbh (A)
American Basswood
89' / 9.63'cbh (B)
88.5' / multistem (B)
84' / 7.71'cbh (A)
Salix sp.
78' / 5.3'cbh (A)
77' / 10.4'cbh (D)
Box Elder
57.5' / 3.02'cbh (A)
53' / 4'cbh (A)
Wafer Ash
17.5' / 0.39'cbh (D)

Now for the three species of interest.
Butternut twig showing hybrid traits
Butternut twig showing hybrid traits
Butternut All trees I've examined in this population display some degree of the traits indicating that they have hybrid Japanese Walnut genetics mixed in- notches on the leaf scars, greenish-tan fresh twigs, elongated lenticels on twig bark, lack of darker bark inside bark fissures, etc. These trees also seem more heavily biased towards an open, spreading growth form (even where it results in being shaded out) than butternuts I've seen on the niagara escarpment that seem very capable of adopting a more competitive forest-grown form. All that said, it's nice to have a local butternut population healthy and thriving, even if it's a bit genetically different than the originals. This document from Purdue I find to be a useful reference for identifying these hybrids: https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmed ... -420-W.pdf The authors prefer to only regard direct F1 hybrids as true "Buarts," so in that vein I am treating this population (which appear likely to be backcrossed closer to true butternut to some degree) as Butternuts. So far I've only found one "true" Butternut locally, on a bluff overlooking lake erie several miles further east, which doesn't seem like a place I'd expect it but perhaps the isolation has favored its survival.
The tallest Rock Elm
The tallest Rock Elm
Rock Elm In the topic regarding the Canadaway Creek Gorge upstream, I told Lucas that we don't have Rock Elm in this area. All botanical records support this, and yet- here they are! It took me some time to be certain of the ID, finally reaching a point of certainty on the bark cross section, twigs (winging in this population is minimal but it does show up), etc. Flowers and fruits should serve to further solidify the ID and reports have been submitted to the NYNHP, as Rock Elm is an S2S3 Rare, Threatened species in NY state. Most NY populations are found in thin soils over limestone, which is not exactly a recipe for vigorous growth, so this floodplain tree (a similar habitat to many midwestern populations) may well remain the state's tallest. I did turn up another small population, more weathered, in thin soil on top of shale cliffs above the lake just west of the creek outlet. I'll have to doublecheck that Elm in the gorge upstream- I hadn't realized at the time how similar Rock Elm can be to American in many traits, and the bark cross-section photo I have was on my cellphone and leaves some room for uncertainty- it eliminated U. rubra, but thomassii? Hard to say.

This new addition to the known range of Ulmus thomassii raises a subject I've been mulling over for some time: Chautauqua County, and Southern Erie County, have very poor and inconsistent documentation in the available botanical literature. Referring to Little's classic range maps, BONAP county data, and the NY Flora Atlas, numerous species that come northeast along the lake into Pennsylvania, or come through southern ontario into the buffalo area or stretch west from the fingerlakes area just... disappear. As though the Chautauqua County lines were some sort of biodiversity barrier, rendering the lush environments of its lake plain and escarpment somehow exceptionally species-poor. A bunch of hawthorns, black oak, bur oak, pin oak, black tupelo, rock elm, pumpkin ash, etc. In the months since I moved back out here I've found natural sites within the county for all of those species (aside from the hawthorns, which I have yet to sort out). I suspect that the county's strongly agricultural history along with happenstance have resulted in a paucity of documentation, rather than a paucity of species. And that leads me to the last species of interest:
Nicely formed Honey Locust
Nicely formed Honey Locust
Honey Locust Along with Rock Elm, Pumpkin Ash, Pin Oak and a couple others, Honey Locust officially has a native range along lake erie right up to the PA state line, which they apparently do not cross. Well, I have now seen that all of these others do extend well into chautauqua county, but those populations are fairly easy to establish as natural. Honey Locust, on the other hand, is widely planted (especially thornless varieties) and easily spreads. It's easy to propose that the nice tall trees in this floodplain got here the same way as the horse chestnuts and the norway maples. However, in previous years of observations I've noted that many other honey locusts are scattered throughout the drainage's floodplains, all heavily armed with thorns, some fairly old in appearance (including an extremely large one near the creek in Fredonia in a section that retains many of its old natural trees)... the local distribution, in conjunction with establishment of these other species as ranging out here naturally, opens the provenance of these Honey Locusts to question. Of course, there's really no way to sort it with any certainty, unless a tree were dated to sometime before 1815 or so, or if genetic work demonstrated that these trees were part of the same natural population as the other native populations further south and west on the lake plain. Similar work of that sort has been done further south that demonstrated that the distribution of Honey Locust along some river drainages was associated with movement of the species by native american groups prior to european settlement, so that does add an intriguing third possibility.

User avatar
wrecsvp
Posts: 55
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:28 pm

Re: Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Post by wrecsvp » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:35 pm

Hi Erik,
very interesting site and report.

I am particularly interested in your report of Rock Elm (Ulmus thomasii), which is a species I have a long interest and near obsession with. I'd be curious to know how that species ID is being made. In the photo, it doesn't look like Rock Elm to me, and Rock Elms are virtually never found on floodplains, due to an apparent sensitivity to standing water. I suspect the tree may be American Elm, or perhaps something else.

Rock Elm, though in many ways visually similar to Ulmus americana, can be confidently separated via certain twig-scale features. The winter buds are pointier, yellower, and more divergent from the twig. The leaves are more symmetrical about the petiole, with noticeably closer-spaced veins. And, particularly distinctive and relevant in the spring season is the flowers/fruit; Ulmus thomasii flowers are arranged in a raceme, in contrast to those of Ulmus americana (a synonymous/old species name for Rock Elm is Ulmus racemosa). The fruit are also much larger and more massive, with a thick and fuzzy seed coat. The famous trait of corky older twigs is highly variable with some Rock Elms being remarkably corky and others lacking all but perhaps a trace of cork. American Elm can sometimes have dead peeling branchlet bark which from a distance can look similar to Rock Elm cork.

Thanks to Lucas Machias for bringing this trip report to my attention.

Best regards,
Owen

User avatar
wrecsvp
Posts: 55
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:28 pm

Re: Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Post by wrecsvp » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:41 pm

I should have also mentioned: Rock Elm bark x-section has the same "white-lines" appearance as American Elm; if anything the white-lines are more pronounced on Rock Elm

User avatar
Lucas
Posts: 838
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:55 am

Re: Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Post by Lucas » Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:43 pm

wrecsvp wrote:Hi Erik,
I am particularly interested in your report of Rock Elm (Ulmus thomasii), which is a species I have a long interest and near obsession with.

Thanks to Lucas Machias for bringing this trip report to my attention.
Owen
He means it.

I suggested his motto should be, "Rock Elm might have rock-hard wood but some have rock-hard wood for rock elm."


Click on image to see its original size

https://karstaddailypaintings.blogspot. ... s36-x.html

Merrickville Rock Elm (oil on canvas 24 x 36 in.)

"Rock Elm is one of those species which can leave an immediate impression on the observer" writes Owen Clarkin, who commissioned this painting.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/treeid/members/

He is an admin on the facebook Tree identification site plus others. He has straighten me out a few times and got me into rock elm.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

User avatar
Lucas
Posts: 838
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:55 am

Re: Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Post by Lucas » Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:45 pm

Erik Danielsen wrote: Rock Elm In the topic regarding the Canadaway Creek Gorge upstream, I told Lucas that we don't have Rock Elm in this area. All botanical records support this, and yet- here they are!
Good to hear!

I wish I had your eco-eye. I look at trees and struggle to get their context.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

User avatar
Erik Danielsen
Posts: 872
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:46 pm

Re: Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Post by Erik Danielsen » Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:58 pm

Owen,

Glad to have your input. I'll provide some additional photos and references.

Regarding habitat, in searching through the literature on Rock Elm two different potential habitat preferences are noted- Wikipedia references a silvics manual in describing "Its preferred habitat is moist but well-drained sandy loam, loam, or silt loam soil, mixed with other hardwoods. However, it also grows on dry uplands, especially on rocky ridges and limestone bluffs." I note that more specified sources emphasize one or the other, which may reflect variation across its geographic range. For example the NYNHP guide only mentions the rocky ridge/limestone habitat type concentrated in northern NY, while Minnesota Wildflowers describes it as most common in lowlands and floodplains in the southern portion of the state. I should clarify that the floodplain of Canadaway Creek, while regularly washed over especially in spring by brief floods, never holds standing water, being a sandy loam texture on top and presumably having a cobble base layer like most alluvial terraces in lake erie drainages. I've gone to visit this tree two days in a row to find everything from the first day entirely rearranged by an overnight flood- but no puddles or pools left on the ground.
Lower trunk and smaller companion.
Lower trunk and smaller companion.
I am looking forward to the flowers emerging, but in the meantime leaves on the ground (though it's hard to be sure where any given leaf came from due to the mentioned flood activity) are all compatible with available references for Rock Elm. The degree of base symmetry appears to be variable- more symmetric in images from NYNHP and Minnesota Wildflowers, for example, less symmetric from the University of Guelph. I'm sure this changes to some degree in shade vs sun leaves. The leaves available are however more symmetrical than I would expect from americana on average.
Leaf
Leaf
The twigs generally resemble American Elm twigs but on average seem finer. Published photos displaying rock elm twigs vary as much or more than the leaves, but these are well within that variation.
Twig. A yellowish character to the twigs is something I noted, but not the buds- is that what you meant?
Twig. A yellowish character to the twigs is something I noted, but not the buds- is that what you meant?
The bark does, as noted, have alternating light/dark layers. The contrast is less than I see in local Ulmus americana, but is a good match for a reference image from Minnesota Wildflowers. I would wonder if this also varies across the species range, as well as in different habitat types.
Bark cross-section.
Bark cross-section.
High contrast typical of local Ulmus Americana, for contrast.
High contrast typical of local Ulmus Americana, for contrast.
Lastly, as mentioned, the trees above the lake with identical traits but reachable twigs do display winged bark on some twigs.
Winged twig bark, from one of the bluff trees.
Winged twig bark, from one of the bluff trees.
Matching bark cross-section in bluff trees. Down leaves and twigs are also identical to the floodplain trees.
Matching bark cross-section in bluff trees. Down leaves and twigs are also identical to the floodplain trees.
I can say with confidence that these trees are not Ulmus americana, and if they are not thomassii then they must be an escaped import. However given the weight of evidence I believe thomassii is the most likely identity. Given the ecotype dynamics mentioned with other species extending along the lake erie plain I would suspect this population may have more in common with populations to the south and west as opposed to populations in Ontario and northern NY.

Mentioned references-
NYNHP: http://www.acris.nynhp.org/guide.php?id=9391&part=4
Minnesota Wildflowers: https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/tree/rock-elm
University of Guelph: https://www.uoguelph.ca/arboretum/thing ... es/rockelm
Wikipedia and other sources point broken link references to the US silvics website that now seems to have morphed into a private forestry hub website, maybe it's a trump thing.

User avatar
Lucas
Posts: 838
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:55 am

Re: Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Post by Lucas » Wed May 02, 2018 10:43 am


Click on image to see its original size

No Quercus_bicolor in there? Seems tailor made and the creek is inside the range map.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

User avatar
Erik Danielsen
Posts: 872
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:46 pm

Re: Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed May 02, 2018 12:09 pm

Hi Lucas,

I'll be posting about some WNY Q. bicolor sometime soon but doublecheck your understanding of where chautauqua county is located- that map (Little's) shows Q. bicolor as absent from the lake erie shore of NY state south of Buffalo. The map missed some populations in southern Erie county but those are in poorly drained Ash-Maple wet woods, a pretty different ecosystem.

User avatar
Lucas
Posts: 838
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:55 am

Re: Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Post by Lucas » Wed May 02, 2018 12:58 pm

Erik Danielsen wrote:Hi Lucas,

I'll be posting about some WNY Q. bicolor sometime soon but doublecheck your understanding of where chautauqua county is located- that map (Little's) shows Q. bicolor as absent from the lake erie shore of NY state south of Buffalo. The map missed some populations in southern Erie county but those are in poorly drained Ash-Maple wet woods, a pretty different ecosystem.
Whoops! Another boner. You are correct.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

User avatar
Jess Riddle
Posts: 440
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:59 am

Re: Canadaway Creek Outlet Floodplain

Post by Jess Riddle » Sun May 13, 2018 1:20 pm

Erik,

Really nice report on the site. The photos, map, and description all work together to give a sense of the forests there and their significance. I was glad you measured the wafer ash in particular. Understory species are under-measured and range-margin populations are significant no matter the size of the species.

As far as the elms being a range-margin population, you've convinced me the trees aren't American or slippery elm. The bark doesn't look much like the rock elms I've seen, but I've never seen them growing in a floodplain. I wonder about Siberian elm (U. pumila) though. The characters of the Canadaway Creek tree seem to fit that species pretty well. Siberian elm is also one of the most common invasives of floodplains in parts of the Midwest.

The trees are big enough to be impressive and the diversity of the area is certainly meaningful. I hope some other local folks appreciate what they have.

Jess

Post Reply

Return to “New York”