Perry Hill Measurements

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Re: Perry Hill Measurements

Post by JHarkness » Fri Nov 16, 2018 6:29 pm


After having received 10-11 inches of snow overnight, I decided today would be a good day to stay at home and measure some trees. I got out my snowshoes and my TruPulse 200 and made the trek up Perry Hill Brook to my favorite tree, now that the leaves are off, the hemlocks of the Perry Hill Forest can really be appreciated. With that in mind, I figured it would be a perfect time to write something about my tallest and most impressive hemlock.

The tree grows on a terrace along the Brook at 910' of elevation, there are many trees here between 100 and 110 feet, but this is the tallest at it's end of the terrace. It's the only true canopy emergent hemlock on the property as this photo, taken a couple days ago, illustrates.

Measuring this almost perfectly straight symmetrical hemlock, with a large nearby canopy gap nearby no less, may seem easy, but it's quite a challenge, mostly because of poor visibility of the tree's base and it's multi-leader crown. I measured it with a clinonmeter in the fall of 2017 at 117', and confirmed it at 116.1' with my TruPulse 200 this past summer, but I did not use a trunk marker nor did I know the crown structure as well as I do know, so I was hoping to find it to be somewhat taller today.
"Hemlock Terrace" as seen from the northwest, while there's only one tall hemlock here, it's not the only old one, I have ring counted several here to over a hundred years, some likely exceed 200, one tree on the left hand side of the frame is a mere 35.6' tall but is likely the oldest tree in the grove. One 2 inch diameter dead hemlock that I cut down was found to be 94 years old a foot and a half off the ground. Unfortunately, this hemlock grove has been hit the hardest first by HWA, then by EHS, and once again HWA. The good news is that last winter's cold temperatures killed a lot of both pests off, as far as I know there's now only one occurrence of HWA on the property and EHS has disappeared entirely from two hemlock groves. Additionally, I began treating these hemlocks this past spring, the tall hemlock and several 70 and 80 footers below it have now been treated, as far as I can tell, treatment has been a success though all of the trees are still very thinned crowned.

Having crossed the Brook above the tree where the terrain is gentler, I tapewrapped the tree then made my way across the Brook again to a hill above the tree which provides a view into it's crown. Having tried several of the tree's leaders I settled on 116.3', however I did get a reading of 117' to a nestled top in it's crown but I wasn't able to repeat that, so I've decided to play it on the safe side and stick with 116.3'.

The tree's stats now are:

Height: 116.3'
Circumference: 8' 0"
Average Crown Spread: 33.8'
The tall hemlock in full. Still a relatively youthful tree as evident by the many remaining lower branches, but the tree no longer has a highly tapered trunk suggesting that it is starting to become a mature specimen, I personally don't think it will get much taller due to its wind exposure, but I'm sure it will put on a lot more girth and trunk volume, interestingly it appears to be growing 6-8 inches a year still but it's only put on a quarter inch of CBH since I first started measuring it two years ago, it appears to be putting on most of its mass just below the crown. This winter I will begin yearly volume measurements of the tree.
The tree's perch on the edge of the terrace above the Brook.
A look up the tree's low taper trunk showing its many remaining lower branches.

I measured a number of other trees today but I feel I need to gather more detailed measurements on a couple of them before posting a full report. Tomorrow is opening day of deer season, I've had lots of problems with hunters (trespassing, drinking, riding ATVs (yes, on my property), shooting at anything that moves and discharging shotguns a couple hundred feet from my house, to name a few), and they're no help with deer as they rarely managed to shoot one and often just put more pressure on them to come onto my property. Obviously I'll need to be up there to keep an eye on things tomorrow, a good excuse for tree measuring. I also wanted to have a post just about the tall hemlock, so consider this "Part One" of the report.
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Perry Hill Measurements

Post by JHarkness » Fri Nov 23, 2018 9:23 pm


Over the past few weeks I've made several measuring trips to the grove on my property which I call the Valley of the Giants, and it is living up to its name. At only 2.5 acres in size, I have measured an astonishing 24 trees exceeding 100', and I've only measured one other canopy tree which came to 99.9'. I've felt like my last report on the site wasn't quite good enough, and with leaf drop having fully progressed since my last report, I've made several new discoveries. I should note that I've barely exhausted the resource and probably haven't measured even half of the tallest trees in this tiny grove, many more 110 footers and 120 footers are bound to show up, hopefully a few 130-footers as well. I don't know what it is with the site, but despite it sitting at 900 feet of elevation on a gentle slope exposed to westerly winds, and being lined by a forest of hemlock and red oak growing on very rocky poor soil, the site's soils, abundant water and mix of old growth 'legacy trees' and younger regrowth give it an exceptional number of tall trees, while none are exactly record breaking, the shear quantity of them impresses me. Despite it being such an ecologically interesting site, fast on its way to being old growth once again, past human disturbance is very noticeable, perhaps more so than on any other forested part of my property. Tree species within the grove include eastern hemlock, sugar maple, red maple, white ash, American beech, black birch, northern red oak, white oak, pignut hickory, mockernut hickory, American basswood, and either American or slippery elm.

I'll begin with a summary of all of the accurately measured trees at the site to date, all measured with my TruPulse 200 using the SINE method.

Valley of the Giants Measurements 11-23-2018.png

As you can see, white ash clearly dominates as the site's tallest species. There is good news of the ashes of Perry Hill, a small ash in another part of the property recently became infested with EAB and died, while studying it I realized that it exhibited very different symptoms than the other ashes that died here. In the end I determined that this was the first ash to become infested with EAB at the site, the historical ash mortality turns out to be from banded ash clearwing boreres, a native but sometimes destructive species, which explains why mortality started occurring as early as 2008, good news, but the fact that they are causing exceptional damage and the ever present danger of EAB turning up are still a major concern. The tallest ash of the bunch has been a real challenge to measure, I've attempted to measure it on six separate occasions this fall and none have succeeded, today I found myself scaling a ridge above the grove 350' away from the ash trying to get a view of its highest twigs, I thought I did but it turned out to be an upturned branch closer to me than the true top, almost sixty feet from the trunk. I have confirmed it to be at least 130' on a straight up shot, and several tangent based height routine measurements from multiple angles suggest a height between 139' and 143'.

The second tallest measured species, mockernut hickory was quite a surprise, given that I was unaware of its presence in the area, and that the only two on the site exceed the current NY State height record, the taller of the two also would become the NY state champion, going off of the NY Big Tree Register that is, so who knows if that's really accurate. It really surprises me that they can achieve such size here, so I wasn't sure of their ID for a while but they're not bitternut, pignut or red, and leaves, twigs and nuts confirm mockernut, something still doesn't sit quite right with me, however.
The second tallest known tree on the property, and the tallest accurately measure tree, is a white ash growing along the northern property line. The tree on the right weighs in at a mere 5' 10" in circumference but yet it tops out at 128.8', and it is still growing vigorously, it put on an additional 1.4' of height this year. It is part of a double which I call the Ash Sisters, as only one tree has been measured so far I do not know which tree is the Big Sister Ash and which is the Little Sister Ash, there is a chance that the unmeasured tree could top 130, but I haven't yet found a good place to measure it from. Behind the tree is the old stone fence which runs along the property line, this is good evidence that the site was once cleared for sheep pasture, but oddly the stone fence only runs for about two hundred feet then ends abruptly, was it not finished? Or was there a wooden fence that continued that has since rotted away? Perhaps the site was intending to become sheep pasture but never was fully cleared and became a woodlot in the end. The north side of the property line is however a younger forest of around 120-150 years of age, still of exceptional stature, but perhaps this was the reason for the existence of the stone fence.

Here's a look up the skinny trunks of the Ash Sisters, there are no greater "beanpole trees" here as far as I'm aware. I suspect the trees are between 130 and 170 years of age, which is probably around the same age as most of the regrowth at the site, only a small handful of trees are older than that. Unfortunately some hunter trespassed on my property at some point within the past few years and decided that these beautiful trees served only one purpose, a mounting post for a tree stand, despite there being a posted sign within a few feet of the tree, they did it anyway. It was taken down not long after it was put up but the tree now has 8" long metal bolts protruding from its lower trunk thanks to these jerks. Oh, and they didn't stop there, one of the nicest beech trees has their initials carved into it and they cut down quite a number of beech and sugar maple saplings to make way for an ATV trail to their tree stand, which likely was never even used...

Another of the tallest trees at the site is a beauty at 6' 9" in CBH and 126.9' in height, it is in perfect health. Due to its proximity to a small spring-fed creek, I've named this tree the Giants Creek Ash

The tallest american beech is dead center in this photo.

This tree weighs in at 120.1' tall, 7' 1" in CBH and with an average crown spread of 47.4' (spoke method), giving it a point score of 216.9. It has a very unique crown architecture as this photo illustrates, its maximum crown spread just barely exceeds 60'. The tree does have BBD and cankers formed two years ago on one side, fortunately the tree has not showed any crown decline or decay thanks to its many competing leaders, the cankers simply are not enough to effect the tree's vascular system. Next spring I will treat it with insecticide to kill the beech scale to hopefully prevent the creation of more cankers, I'm hopeful that it will be around for a while longer.

The tree forms the peak of what I call the Beech Cathedral, the tree to the right of the tall beech measured 116.2' and the large beech in the background is likely the oldest tree in the entire grove, known as the Elder Beech it is small compared to the trees in the Beech Cathedral at only 101.7' and 6' 9", it is completely hollow and has been struck by lightning at least once, its crown is literally falling apart and one of its main limbs has a strange notch cut out of its top side more than half way through the limb, somehow it remains in place. The tree is completely free of BBD and has a healthy crown, it is possible that it is resistant given its proximity to several that are severely infected.
The 122.6' by 6' 4" Ice Storm Mockernut and the 114.4' by 7' 4" sugar maple are seen together in this photo. One of the hickory's forked leaders snapped in an ice storm several years ago but remains in the crown, it almost touches the ground and the fork is almost 70' off the ground. This was the reasoning for naming it the Ice Storm Mockernut. Interestingly, these two hickories show the most winter storm related damage of any of my hickories, reflecting that they're the most southerly species of hickory present here. Once I've managed to assure myself that the tree is absolutely Carya tomentosa I will measure its crown spread, calculate the total points and submit it to the DEC's Big Tree Register as the state champion.

Between the Valley of the Giants and Perry Hill Brook, the RHI10 for the Perry Hill Forest weighs in at 117.19' presently, and that will certainly increase. Taller pignut hickories, a much taller sugar maple (120'+) are present, additionally the second northern red oak in the Valley of the Giants may become the tallest, additionally I have been completely unable to accurately measure the tallest birches, not a single one has a visible top, I suspect the tallest will fall somewhere around 115, but could pass 120, it's unlikely however. I'm presently using 130' as the height for the tallest ash, but it is almost certainly taller than that, in the end the height index will probably fall between 120 and 124, interesting as neither white pine or tuliptree are present in the RHI10, nor are some other common tall trees in the area, such as cottonwood or sycamore, and the bitternut hickories aren't exceptionally tall by any means. This speaks to the fact that the property doesn't have a lot of individually exceptional trees, but as a whole it's a pretty special place. Soon I will begin volume measuring a number of these trees, high priority trees will be white ashes, sugar maples, red oaks, American beech and black birch.
I've decided to give the place a rest for a while, I realize that almost all of my posts on the BBS so far have been about the same property, but that is because it holds a very special place in my heart, and not just my heart but in the hearts of much of my family. This place will never be logged, it will never be developed, and I won't let any species disappear nor will I let invasive species take over, no matter how hard I have to work. Though I probably won't post about it for a while unless I find something incredibly exceptional, I will be continuing my work to document all of the tall trees at the site, some trees like red maple and black birch are poorly represented so far and others like bigtooth aspen and white oak haven't been measured at all. This will change with time.
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Perry Hill Measurements

Post by dbhguru » Sun Nov 25, 2018 9:03 am


We love your posts and totally understand your devotion to the place you love. Keep'um coming. You can't send too many.

I'm not surprised that you have these tall tree sites. We're seeing more and more of them spread across the East the forests continue to grow. They weren't always in the hundreds. If we project back to say the 1970s, lots of our current tall tree sites would have been pretty ordinary.

Robert T. Leverett
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Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Re: Perry Hill Measurements

Post by Larry Tucei » Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:23 am

Joshua- Great posting's on your property! Very descriptive and your photos are good as well. It's great to have a place like yours. The Maples remind me of my Friends trees in Northern Wisconsin. His are really old perhaps to 200. Love the Pileated Woodpecker shot. Larry

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Re: Perry Hill Measurements

Post by JHarkness » Thu Nov 29, 2018 3:00 pm

Bob, Larry,

Thank you both for the kind words. I'm realizing that this area would have been covered in incredible trees prior to European colonization, despite the fact that the quoted forest type here was supposedly "scrub oak and pine", the place would have been covered in moist and nutrient rich hemlock and northern hardwood forests, oak-hickory forests would have been extremely rare here and mostly on dry ridgetops, the oak-hickory forests seen today which many people believe are our forests in their "natural" state, are almost exclusively growing on nutrient poor overfarmed sites. A small hill nearby is covered in shrubby red oaks and eastern junipers, I remember that the Nature Conservancy claimed that the site was largely "undisturbed", and that the "forest" reflects what settlers saw when they arrived here, it was pasture just thirty years ago and is little more than an invasive species shrubland now...


Those sound like wonderful maples, they often achieve quite a stature in about 200 years, I've personally ringcounted trees here to just over 210, mostly white ash and some sugar maple, and I know there are older trees around, including most of the maples, the oldest I would bet are pushing 300, at the very least they seeded in shortly after the propery was settled, so 270-280 is reasonable as a minimum age for the oldest trees.

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Re: Perry Hill Measurements

Post by JHarkness » Wed Dec 26, 2018 5:20 pm


I just wanted to post a small update with a few measurements and photos. I've measured a small number of trees over the past couple weeks, this time I've been concentrating my efforts on Perry Hill Brook, and they are paying off. I haven't yet broken 120' on a tree along the brook, though it is bound to happen on at least one tree. There's nothing exceptional height wise in this post, the main point is to update some height and circumference data which I've posted before which turned out to be incorrect, partially due to measurement errors and apparently quite a significant typo in a data sheet. I also confirmed several previous height and circumference measurements as accurate, those will be posted again here.
Map showing locations of measured trees, some have been highlighted with their ID codes to allow for a location reference.

Acer saccharum
PHB007 111.7' x 8' 2" Grandmother Maple, same tree as in previous post, remeasured to ensure accuracy of measurements post leaf drop
PHB027 110.5' x 5' 6" Part of double, had to take circumference at 8' off ground due to high fusion
PHB022 109.6' x 6' 10" Skidroad Maple
PHB029 109.0' x 9' 7" Mother Maple, new largest forest grown sugar maple on property
PHB023 103.2' x 7' 4"

Acer rubrum
PHB011 108.4' x 4' 3" New top found, increased from 107.8 to 108.4

Fraxinus americana
PHB033 118.4' x 6' 9" Dead stem, broken top, once was over 120'
PHB024 114.4' x 4' 10"

Fagus grandifolia
PHB031 101.6' x 5' 11" In severe decline from BBD, taken at steep angle, likely didn't hit true top

Carya cordiformis
PHB016 119.2' x 5' 11" Same tree as in previous post, remeasured to ensure accuracy of measurements post leaf drop
PHB030 112.8' x 5' 8" May not have hit true top, grows next to Mother Maple and appears drastically taller, couldn't get more than 112.8', may be a hidden top nestled farther into the crown

Carya ovalis
PHB028 117.4' x 7' 2" New species at site and largest hickory on property

Quercus rubra
PHB008 110.3' x 12' 7" Gene's Oak, new top and better mid-slope location found, circumference increased from 12' 3" to 12' 7"
Last edited by JHarkness on Wed Dec 26, 2018 6:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Perry Hill Measurements

Post by JHarkness » Wed Dec 26, 2018 5:59 pm

One of the two big surprises of the past few week's efforts has been determining that I had made a typo when I last recorded Mother Maple's circumference, she was listed as 8' 7", but turned out to be 9' 7", making her the largest forest grown sugar maple on the property by 3 inches. The other surprise was finding out that red hickory (Carya ovalis) is indeed present on the property, not on the ridgetops, but in fact along the brook. I have only located two trees so far, but one of them is quite a respectable tree, measuring 117.4' in height and 7' 2" in CBH, also making it the largest hickory of any species on the property. The tree grows on the southern edge of the Hemlock Terrace, which is a small flat where the brook levels out for a short distance before cascading down the side of the mountain. Here is a look at the tree, this is the same place where the property's tallest hemlock, sugar maple, red maple and bitternut hickory are located.

During the summer, I was exploring the steep slope above the brook to the west, the forest on this slope is an attractive northern hardwood stand of mature sugar maple, red maple, beech, black birch and hemlock, but it is highly exposed and doesn't have a lot of tall trees, however, it offers several excellent locations to measure trees along the brook below from. I encountered a small canopy gap which allowed me to sight the top of a skinny red maple which I've long called the "Spiral Maple" for its strange spiraling bark ridges which extend from the base of the tree to the smallest branches. Not expecting much of a height reading from the unimposing tree, I was quite surprised to get a height of 107.8', making it the tallest known red maple on the property. I had taken the shot without a trunk marker or a tripod so I returned recently to update that, the final result was 108.4' and 4' 3" in CBH. Walking past the tree, one would likely never notice the little beanpole sneaking into the canopy. Regardless, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite trees.

With those two trees, the RHI10 for the property increased to 118.51', there is no doubt that it will break 120' soon. Not too bad considering that neither tuliptree nor white pine are present as tall species. Hopefully pinning down the correct heights for the tallest ash, sugar maple and black birch will push it past 120'.

PHB027 is the tree on the left, measuring 110.5' tall and 5' 6" in circumference. The two trees are fused to about 8' above midslope, it was necesarry to tapewrap the tree at that height to record CBH. The tree on the right has not yet been measured, it struck me as being shorter at the time, but it leans downhill with its top being in a more protected part of the canopy that PHB027, so it could be somewhat taller.
Mother Maple, 9' 7" / 109.0' tall. The tree isn't particularly tall, but the circumference and its large gnarled, weather beaten crown give it a lot of special character which many of the other trees nearby simply don't have.
The Perry Hill Forest's largest northern red oak at 12' 7" / 110.3' is in the background on the left, while the trunk of its largest sugar maple at 9' 7" / 109.0' is in the foreground somewhat out of focus. Next to the big oak is Grandmother Maple, at 8' 2" and 111.7', despite Grandmother's small girth, she is perhaps the oldest tree on the property.

I will post more updates as I continue to document more trees, I have also had some recent insight into the historic usage of the property, I have a fairly clear picture of the property's former land use and of the age of various forest stands, I will include information on that in one of my next posts. I also purchased a reticled monocular recently and will soon begin working with it to volume model some of the trees along the brook, ones that will be modeled include the big red oak, Mother Maple, the tallest hemlock and the tallest sugar maple.

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

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Re: Perry Hill Measurements

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Dec 26, 2018 10:31 pm


I've seen some spiraling on red maples but none so pronounced. Together with the tree's graceful, slender form and decent height it makes sense that it would make an impression on the viewer as an individual in its own right.

I look forward to the information on stand history. We really have very little data from that region on "typical" stands- do you feel that this forest is fairly representative of what would be found in mature regrowth in the area?

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Re: Perry Hill Measurements

Post by JHarkness » Wed Dec 26, 2018 11:19 pm


I think the site is a fairly good representation of what mature upland regrowth would look like in the area, however, there are some things to consider, one is that the site was very likely subject to logging. The evidence I have suggests that the site was high graded for white pines and large hemlocks, which explains why mature seed producing hemlocks are uncommon but suppressed hemlocks the same age as canopy-dominant seed producers are abundant and why the only white pines around are ratty weevil damaged pines. Hemlock is fairly common on the property now, but I suspect it was once much more common as much of the mature regrowth in the area is almost entirely hemlock dominated regardless of site conditions. I believe most moist upland sites (not dry ridges) in the area were dominated by hemlock, beech, sugar maple and yellow birch pre-settlement with a scattering of black birch, red oak, white ash, white pine and to some extent various hickories. In terms of height potential, it should be noted that this site is positioned at just under 1,000' of elevation and most trees are exposed to wind in some way, so this probably is typical of an upland setting in the area, but lowlands, floodplains, and steep low-elevation ravines would certainly have much more potential, unfortunately it is those such sites that have been lost to logging and agriculture. I've recently been trying to identify any sites of potential in nearby low areas, but for the most part I haven't lucked out, what I've found is very limited and is almost entirely privately owned. Nonetheless, I am going to continue the search.

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

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