The Volume is turned All The Way Up at Forest Hill Cemetery

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Erik Danielsen
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The Volume is turned All The Way Up at Forest Hill Cemetery

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:21 pm

Way back in 2014 I posted about the cemetery in my hometown of Fredonia, NY, over by Lake Erie southwest of Buffalo. This cemetery has a unique point of interest for tree lovers: the oldest section was not cleared of its tree when the cemetery was established. Instead, the founders simply curated the most suitable trees from what they described as "primeval forest" and cleared everything else, in order to replicate the shady "forest garden" style of cemetery without having to plant a bunch of new trees and wait for them to grow. While there are many large planted trees throughout the rest of the cemetery, many now probably over 150 years old, the remnant old-growth trees announce themselves clearly with their immense stature and trunk forms that clearly got their start competing in a forest canopy, though their limb structure has adjusted to take advantage of the opened-up environment in the time since. It's been on my mind that many of these trees are likely to be high in volume for their species. Not long ago, the largest-diameter sugar maple I measured in 2014 was removed (wish I had been able to count the rings on the stump!). This has added some urgency, as right across the lane from that tree is my favorite specimen, another enormous and even gnarlier sugar maple that has started to display a lot of crown dieback. This topic will record what findings I have in measuring the volume of these trees, one individual per post, in a similar format to the Lilydale topic.

So far, to echo the topic title, the volume of these old trees is very high!

Species with very old representatives in this cemetery include Sugar Maple, Eastern Hemlock, Northern Red Oak, Tuliptree, Shagbark Hickory, Cucumber Magnolia, Red Maple, and Hophornbeam.
One of two old Cucumber Magnolias, looming over the rows of tombstones.
One of two old Cucumber Magnolias, looming over the rows of tombstones.
Last edited by Erik Danielsen on Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: The Volume is turned All The Way Up at Forest Hill Cemet

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:51 pm

It's hard to decide which Hemlock in the cemetery is likely to have the greatest volume. Two exceed 13'cbh, but one of them tapers rapidly. The other, with a much slower taper, grows on a slope that contains an in-ground mausoleum. This tree has some of the densest limb structure I've seen on any hemlock, hosting several crow nests. There are hollows high up in its main trunk that are undoubtedly also home to some small creatures. Given the ample housing this tree apparently provides, I like to call it Hotel Hemlock. On 7/14/2018 I modeled the trunk for volume, and updated the cbh measurement I made in 2014, as well as measuring the height. Collecting crown spread and estimating limb volume would also be worthwhile for this tree. The stats:

Hotel Hemlock - 87' tall - 13.01'cbh - 474 ft3 volume in main trunk
Hotel Hemlock as seen from the lane.
Hotel Hemlock as seen from the lane.
The view from the side emphasizes even further what a great character tree this is.
The view from the side emphasizes even further what a great character tree this is.
While 474 ft3 is much larger than most of the area's hemlocks (the largest measured so far in Zoar is 405 ft3), when comparing it to the Lilydale hemlocks the importance of taper in determining the highest-volume trees is clear. The Grandfather Hemlock illustrates this well. It's lesser in girth at "just" 11.35'cbh, but manages to fit an additional 242 ft3- that's like an entire additional decent hemlock from most of the surrounding forests. The difference is not that pronounced in the first forty feet or so of trunk, but past that the Hotel Hemlock fades out rapidly while Grandpa just keeps going ((1.83' diameter at 57' high vs 2.94' diameter at 61.5' high). Height is as well inextricably linked to taper- at 81' Grandpa is still 2.22' in diameter, while he Hotel Hemlock tapers all the way to Zero at the 87' mark! Working with volume measurement after a long time thinking in terms of simply height and girth is a whole new ballgame.

A couple of other hemlocks in the cemetery who have smaller diameters but greater heights and slower taper could well match or exceed this tree, but that's far from certain. Even if they do, the Hotel Hemlock is certainly the most striking at the site.

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: The Volume is turned All The Way Up at Forest Hill Cemet

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:07 pm

on 7/14 I also began modeling one of my favorite trees in the cemetery: a gnarled, hunched sugar maple that looks simply ancient. A similar-sized specimen right across the lane from this one was removed while I was living in NYC, and I'm worried that this one won't be upright much longer either. Documenting it in detail while it's still alive feels imperative. So far I have just modeled the trunk, and sketched a map of the limbs to guide their modeling. The tree's dbh is nothing to sneeze at, but it actually reaches its greatest diameter at 20.5' high, equivalent to 14.2' circumference! At the highest point of the trunk (46.5') it's still 3.8' in diameter. The narrowest point on the trunk is 3.43', at 39.5' high. The swellings and taperings of the trunk are complex, requiring a couple sections to be calculated as upside-down nieloids, and probably leaving out a good bit of wood volume in the lesser knobs and swellings by sticking to the narrow points between them. The resulting volume for the trunk is impressive, and I look forward to adding the limbs. I was surprised at how close this tree's trunk came to the enormous Liverpool Maple Grove Grandfather Maple.

87.25' tall (dead top)/83.8' tall (live) - 12.45'cbh (2" diameter gained since 2014) - 553 ft3 volume in trunk alone
I'm at the base for scale. Check out that gnarly weathered structure!
I'm at the base for scale. Check out that gnarly weathered structure!
I will update this post as I measure the crown. Hopefully I'll settle on a good name for the tree, too.

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Rand
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Re: The Volume is turned All The Way Up at Forest Hill Cemet

Post by Rand » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:18 pm

That magnolia has very nice character.

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JHarkness
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Re: The Volume is turned All The Way Up at Forest Hill Cemet

Post by JHarkness » Sun Sep 02, 2018 8:19 pm

Great write up and photos, Erik! I'm really impressed with these trees, particularly the sugar maple, it is a really beautiful tree, even in it's decline. It's interesting how it's limb characteristic reflect advanced age, but it's bark doesn't seem to be quite as far along in development, perhaps it's being affected by soil compaction, or earthworms? I find the low height of these trees interesting, is this an exposed site that wouldn't have naturally grown super tall trees, or perhaps the land site was cleared when these were very young trees? I have come to the conclusion that one site on my property was cleared to become sheep pasture, but about a dozen of the old growth trees were left here, this includes my tallest ash. The old growth trees all have interesting piles of stones around their bases while the second growth trees do not, the old growth trees have almost perfectly retained their forest grown appearance, I'm not sure if the site was only used very briefly, ring counts from some second growth ashes suggest that it was only used for 35-50 years then abandoned. Most of the second growth trees here average between 95' and 110', the old growth ones are mostly between 120' and 130' with at least one exceeding 130'. I'm interested to know your thoughts on how the trees at these two site developed so differently, other than just the amount of time they've had excessive light.

Joshua
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: The Volume is turned All The Way Up at Forest Hill Cemet

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sun Sep 02, 2018 10:07 pm

Josh,

Perhaps it's a bad photo for judging the bark character, as I could see how it resembles younger bark in the early fissuring stage at that distance. This tree has gone through the full cycle of bark development and is balding back down from the flaking plate stage. Not quite to the totally smooth mottled balding I see in very old sugars in wet ravines, but definitely an old bark character.

The history of the site is described in primary sources- in the 1840s they took a parcel of primary forest and simply removed a large portion of the trees, keeping enough to maintain an attractive shading canopy. Before that I'm sure heights were typical- the single old tuliptree is still over 120'- but with increased exposure and decreased light competition most of the old trees have clearly lost height. The columnar trunks of most are similar in height to those of their forest grown comrades, but the crowns show breakage and a combination of spreading out and epicormic limb development. The change in exposure (to both light and wind) really does appear to be the dominant factor in these changes.

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