Some Unexceptional Black Birches on Perry Hill

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JHarkness
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Some Unexceptional Black Birches on Perry Hill

Post by JHarkness » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:11 pm

ENTS,

Due to a dense canopy I have been unable to measure many of the exceptional trees on my property, that will change in a couple weeks, however. I have managed to get a couple of the larger trees measured, such as a 116.1' hemlock and 118.7' white ash, but on the tallest trees I lose the clear line of sight I have on smaller trees, one tree I measured gave me wildly varying measurements between 80 and 125', but that doesn't mean there aren't trees to measure, some of the shorter trees do have visible tops, one species that can be measured with a bit of work is the black birch. Today, I've begun a project to document all black birches either over 5' in circumference or 100' in height, I started off by working in a 110-120 year old second growth stand which features black birch as it's dominant species, I also measured several in a slightly older 160-190 year old stand, but these trees are at high elevation, exposed to weather, and many are suffering from a fungus that causes cankers and crown decline. That said, none of the heights are impressive, but I was quite pleased to record several other trees over 5' in circumference, the main purpose of this post, however, is to share some photos of this beautiful species.

All measurements should be considered "not less than" as it is entirely possible that there is a higher top, or that the laser was hitting a closer branch, these all need to be measured again in fall.

IMG_0805.jpg
This picturesque birch only measures 4' 11.5" in circumference, I couldn't measure height but I can't imagine it's much more than 80', it's suffering from the fungus and is in decline, but it's sprawling root system and moss covered root flare give it a lot of character.

IMG_0820.jpg
I was quite surprised by this birch, it's right off the trail and doesn't look at all impressive, but it's a whopping 5' 7" in circumference, much larger than any of it's neighbors, interestingly, the birches here don't get very large, but they can achieve quite a good height for the species, this is only the fifth largest on the property that I know of. This tree is likely approaching 200 years of age, and is in perfect health.

IMG_0830.jpg
Directly across the trail from the previous tree was yet another 5-footer, this time 5' 3", not something I expected for this site, the canopy here averages between 80-85' with few trees over 90'. The stand is mature, but it's very exposed to wind at this site and I suspect that has a significant limiting factor on height, however, this 86.6' tall birch is nothing to sneeze at when most of it's neighboring birches don't break 80'.

The twisted trunk of the 86.6' birch...
The twisted trunk of the 86.6' birch...

Just a few feet away is a typical black birch for the site, small, thin, contorted, but quite old, much to my surprise the little birch, which measures a mere 3' 4" in circumference, is 88.5' tall, making it the second tallest known tree at this site.

Even a dead black birch has beauty...
Even a dead black birch has beauty...
A birch and an oak, well, what's left of an oak...
A birch and an oak, well, what's left of an oak...

Moving on, I decided to check up on the Mahican Hemlock's measurements, presently it is 116.1' tall and is at 8' 0.5" in circumference, that is a half-inch increase for this growing season. I've noticed that the hemlock is quickly developing old growth characteristics, including deeply furrowed, irregular bark and more gnarled limbs, I've decided to rename it as I feel it's current name is more general, I want something that conveys it's character. On a side note, the beautiful hemlock is quickly recovering following treatment for EHS.

IMG_0736.jpg
Next to the hemlock grows a very interesting birch, it's younger than the hemlock, likely only around 150. There were once several very large old growth hemlocks here, they were spared perhaps because the landowner at the time respected them, they all died out, likely just due to old age, by the 1950s, a large pit and mound can still be seen where one monster of a tree went down, it must have been well over 130 feet in height and over 11' in girth based on the size of the pit and mound and the photos I've seen of it. The almost-old growth hemlock here now is just a seedling from one these lost giants. It's quite possible this birch seeded in when one hemlock went down, it leans quite precariously across the stream and the gorge it runs through.


But that's not all I have to share with you, there are plenty of other impressive trees here, even in this one young forest, such as this red maple... Big Red, at 8' 1" in circumference, is the largest of my red maples, and has a huge scar, possibly from fire, on one side, the tree is completely hollow, leaning, and losing height, but it still is a healthy tree.
RedMaplePanoramic1.jpg
Big Red (soon to be changed) has a lot of character as this photo illustrates.



That's it for now, I will post a followup to this sometime in September or early October once the leaves have started to fall and I have the chance to measure some of the other, more exceptional birches.
A turkey-tail birch...
A turkey-tail birch...
American chestnut leaves...
American chestnut leaves...
Fall is on it's way...
Fall is on it's way...
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Some Unexceptional Black Birches on Perry Hill

Post by Erik Danielsen » Fri Aug 24, 2018 8:46 am

Josh,

Wonderful photos. Black Birch seems to be a fruitful host for some of the smaller polypore species like turkeytail and violet-toothed polypore, which can make quite a spectacle in an environment of deep mossy greens and pale lichens.

Fighting the closed canopy to get a few opportunistic measurements may not be terribly exciting, but it is certainly good practice. Glad you've now got laser in hand! That Hemlock sounds very nice as well. I do get to wondering what old-growth hemlock stands might still be hiding in the eastern part of the state. The ones I've visited had some good tall, aged trees, but mostly 6-8'cbh. Sites with really high-volume trees are hard to come by.

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JHarkness
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Re: Some Unexceptional Black Birches on Perry Hill

Post by JHarkness » Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:25 am

Erik,

Funny you should mention that, I just got back from a visit to the Great Swamp in southern Dutchess County, last spring I noticed a lot of nicely sized tulips (not old growth or anything that tall), and some very large hemlocks, I thought they were all second growth as one monster of a tree, dying of natural causes, has a stonewall at it's base. As it turns out, the stonewall separated a sheep pasture from the swamp, the small area between them is true old growth, and has some whoppers. I had my rangefinder, but I had trouble getting through the canopy, most of the large trees are between 90 and 105' tall, so not a tall site, but there are some huge, old trees there, the dying hemlock is quite possibly 12-13' CBH and there is at least one 10-11' CBH hemlock, there's also a massive tulip tree, though quite short, right on the edge of the swamp that could easily be 13-14' CBH. Ironically, the tallest tree I got was a second growth tulip, at only 106', oddly enough it's probably only 45-60 years old (based on the bark characteristics of black and yellow birches as well as red maple). One fallen hemlock had snapped quite cleanly, while I didn't take a precise count, it was between 250 and 300 years old, and it looked nowhere near as old as the larger trees here, I'm guessing there could be a 400 year old tree at this site. Oh, and there was also a monster of a sassafras here.

I will put up a post on this site tonight or tomorrow. I need to head back there come fall to get heights and circumference measurements, the one hemlock might be state champion material, but I won't be able to tell for sure until I can measure it's girth and get an accurate height.

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

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Some Unexceptional Black Birches on Perry Hill

Post by Erik Danielsen » Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:37 am

Sounds like a very interesting site! If the hemlocks you describe have the typical slow taper of old specimens they may be in the 400 ft3 ballpark in spite of not being so tall. The state champion tree however is a freak specimen on the lawn at the vanderbilt estate over 16'cbh- the listed height is a few feet short based on my measurements. It would be hard to match.

106' for a young tulip on a decent site is very reasonable. I'll look forward to your post.

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JHarkness
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Re: Some Unexceptional Black Birches on Perry Hill

Post by JHarkness » Fri Aug 24, 2018 10:05 am

Erik,

If I remember correctly, the present state champion comes to roughly 290 points, based on my rough height measurement (which is almost sure to increase in the fall) and my estimates for circumference and crown spread, this hemlock should come to 270-285 points. Yes, these hemlocks have very little tapering on their lower trunks, the largest in particular doesn't seem to have any tapering until about 40' up it's trunk.


Here's a photo of the largest hemlock for referrence.
IMG_1328.jpg
Joshua
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Some Unexceptional Black Birches on Perry Hill

Post by Erik Danielsen » Fri Aug 24, 2018 12:04 pm

I've been lazy about getting my updates to the DEC, but thd vanderbilt tree's proper points total is 309. Really bizarre tree, worth checking out if you get down that way-I'll stress that this points total is just for the main central stem! The "champion trees of dutchess county" topic from may 2017 has some photos.

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