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NY State Champion Sugar Maple

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 7:35 pm
by JHarkness
ENTS,

Does anyone here on the BBS know of the New York state champion sugar maple, where it is located and what it's measurements are? The DEC's Big Tree Register lists one with 359 points (actually 360 from their own measurements), but shouldn't that point score make it a national co-champion and not just a state champion? It seems a little strange that we haven't heard of such a sugar maple in New York. I know that the DEC's register isn't always accurate, take the now deceased Johnstown Elm which was listed as being 140' tall when it was in reality less than 100'. Recently, I was looking for information on the NY State Champion sugar maple and found an article about one in Ontario, NY that supposedly was the state champion, but was significantly smaller than the one on the register. This tree is unfortunately dead, apparently it lost several large limbs in quick succession and had to be taken down.

I'm very curious about this as I have a grand old sugar maple which has a point score of 316, a DEC forester once said that the tree was likely the state champion, and it has put on a lot of girth since. My tree unfortunately took on too much water after a large rainstorm and lost one of it's main limbs, it has internal decay which was expected, but it's not as severe as I feared and it's still structurally sound and very healthy. It only lost .4 points following it's "accident" so it still has a good shot of becoming the state champion, I doubt it will grow much more in height, but I expect it will put on a lot of girth to strengthen it's trunk. It has been increasing it's girth by 2.5" per year for several years now.

Knowing the DEC Big Tree Register's reputation, it make me wonder, is there really one with 360 points, or is my tree the state champion, or is there another tree larger than mine that didn't make the list for some reason?

Perhaps the NY resident big tree hunters should work on compiling a list of large open grown sugar maple measurements, and for other species as well, to see how they stack up compared to the DEC's list?

Re: NY State Champion Sugar Maple

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:05 pm
by ElijahW
Joshua,

The Grandfather Tree in Liverpool, which is forest-grown, is by far the largest Sugar Maple I know of. It scores between 300 and 310 AF points. While 10’ CBH Maples are common in CNY yards, the field thins considerably when searching for 13’ and larger trees. Open-grown Sugar Maples generally don’t live as long as their forest-grown counterparts, and often start to fall apart after a century or so. A 316 point tree would be significant.

Last I knew, the NY champion was in Onondaga County, which is where I reside. I haven’t seen the tree, and have no idea if its reported dimensions are legitimate. I have serious doubts. The Ontario tree may have been multi-trunked, but I don’t know that for sure.

I’m always on the lookout for large Sugars. A 360-point Sugar is unlikely.

Elijah

Re: NY State Champion Sugar Maple

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:58 pm
by JHarkness
Elijah,

I'd love to see some photos of the Grandfather Tree if you have any. It sounds like an absolutely magnificent tree, and it would be pretty special if the state champion or co-champion sugar maple was a forest grown!

I have always had doubts about some of the numbers on the Big Tree Register, personally I have never seen a sugar maple as large as mine, save for the national champion in Massachusetts and the co-champion in Connecticut. It seemed strange that it's so far from what's listed as the state champion, I always assumed that sugar maples just lived longer and got bigger as field trees in central and western New York. I suppose a post about my maple is in order once the leaves fall and I've spent some time searching it's crown with a rangefinder to find the true top. Interesting story about my tree, in the 1950s or '60s, it was struck by lightning, the original leader died and the main trunk beneath it was hollowed out, the whole tree probably would have been downed in such an event, but thanks to the little hemlock that has been growing next to it since the 1930s, the lightning arced over to the hemlock creating a massive spiraling scar and sparing the maple's main trunk. Both trees survived the event without major damage and still carry the scars of the event. The maple has grown multiple new leaders as result of this and it's almost impossible to tell which one is higher, I've settled on 99.5' for now, but that may change once I can explore the crown more. From the now exposed growth rings on the broken branch, I can assume that the tree is in the 250-300 year range, or at least the branch was, it may not have been an original leader, had it not been for the lightning strike and someone's idea of "pruning", the tree would likely still be in perfect health and form, but I see no reason why the tree can't live on for at least a few more decades in it's present state.

If you locate the state champion and get to visit it, please keep me informed.

Joshua

Re: NY State Champion Sugar Maple

Posted: Wed Jul 04, 2018 5:09 am
by ElijahW
Joshua,

Here’s a link to an article on the Grandfather Tree featuring my friend and fellow NTS member Tom Howard: https://www.syracuse.com/outdoors/index ... river_home.

Elijah

Re: NY State Champion Sugar Maple

Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:48 pm
by JHarkness
Elijah,

What a beautiful old tree! How is the tree holding up to those old scars? They look like they could become major entry points for decay.

Re: NY State Champion Sugar Maple

Posted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:27 pm
by ElijahW
Joshua,

The tree is in great shape. The scars have been there for some time, but don't seem to affect the integrity of the lower trunk. Who knows how much longer it will live, but I don't see it falling anytime soon.

Elijah

Re: NY State Champion Sugar Maple

Posted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 7:24 pm
by JHarkness
Elijah,

That is good to hear. I've always been amazed at the longevity of some species of trees when they're not disturbed by humans or by weather events, it makes me wonder how much longer they could live if in the perfect conditions.

Today I had an arborist taking a look at my maple to see what will need to be done in terms of cabling, he said the tree is the oldest open grown sugar maple he's seen but he says he's seen one larger. I managed to track the tree down, it grows on the grounds of Vassar College, thanks to Google Earth I was able to get a very rough idea of it's measurements, it appears to be a little over 110' in height and it has a jaw-dropping maximum spread of 143', it's circumference is at least the size of my tree. That sounds absolutely preposterous for a sugar maple, I'm pretty sure it's a double, to attain 115' of height as an open grown tree, it must be absolutely ancient, or have had light competition, and that much spread is probably impossible for a single tree, but two large fused trees could easily achieve that. Street view isn't that great, it's very poor quality imagery, but I can see two large main leaders that fork within 15' of the ground, I can't tell if the pith lines meet because of the quality, but it certainly looks like a double, and a young one at that, it has many low spreading limbs (none are particularly large), but it has no signs of losing any in the past, and it looks to have dark gray, fairly smooth bark suggesting that it's not an old tree(s). Furthermore, the grounds of Vassar were supposedly treeless until a swamp white oak was planted in 1868, and that started a tradition senior students planting trees for their class, unless that sugar maple is the lone exception, it's a young double.

Regardless of being a double, it looks like an absolutely incredible form, I plan to visit and measure it soon as it's only an hour long drive from my house.

Re: NY State Champion Sugar Maple

Posted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:04 pm
by JHarkness
ENTS,

An update on the Vassar tree. The giant tree which, from Google Earth street view, appeared to be a double trunked sugar maple is, in fact, a london planetree. I would say that the crown spread and height estimates I came up with are indeed accurate, in terms of circumference, it looks like it could be 25'. It appears to be a double, it's pith lines miss eachother by about 4 feet, but supposedly, it was a single seedling when planted in 1906, I can't find any photos to confirm that, however. There is no fusing of the bark anywhere on the two "trunks", enforcing the possibility that it's a single. My money is on single, but who knows, it could be a double.

I'll put up a trip report for the tree once I've measured it.

Joshua