Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

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Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Dec 15, 2014 1:43 pm

I visited the edge of the Walker Cove Research Natural Area last spring. There were too many leaves to do any substantial measuring. This past weekend, I went back to measure primarily old growth sugar maples. Bob has done some measuring of sugar maples at this site and I'm sure several other ENTS have done so as well. I covered about a quarter of the Research area. Sugars thoroughly dominate on the northern facing site. They are accompanied by yellow buckeye, white ash, white basswood, hophornbeam, beech and a smattering of other species. The ash appears to be white ash. Biltmore ash is far more common in the area but white ash is present is this very northern forest.

I measured between 4000' and 4200' elevation. The beech appeared to be young while most other species were old growth. The beech also had a slightly different appearance from what I regularly encounter. They had rings much like on some black birches and I had to question whether some of them were actually birches. They were indeed beech but there were several black birches, two of which were in advanced age. I very rarely see hophornbeams. In a two acre area, I saw more hophornbeams than I've ever seen in total before. They don't get too thick around here but they can get fairly tall. The thickest was about 8-9" d. It's very nice to see old growth with northern species in the south. It's nice to see tuliptree almost nonexistent. So often in second growth forests, tulip is so dominant that few tree species can even get a foothold. I saw one young tulip and one mature tulip in the research area.

Just above the trail on a flat lies the largest sugar maple I've ever seen. It measures 12.2' in girth and 124.4' in height. Others were just a little smaller. 9-11' girths are plentiful.

There's a curious situation with the hemlock population in Big Ivy. The old growth hemlocks appear to be completely wiped out yet at the entrance, a hundred or so hemlocks are doing fairly well. They don't appear to have been treated but are holding on, and are around 100' tall. Along the Elk Pen Trail, many are hanging on but are succumbing. It's the same situation along the main road outside of Big Ivy. the hemlocks look a little thin but are holding their own. a few homesteads have obviously treated their hemlocks and those are thriving. Why did all of the hemlocks at higher elevations die out while the lower elevation hemlocks are still hanging on?

I reported on the Elk Pen Trail a while back, which is nearby. http://www.ents-bbs.org/viewtopic.php?f ... t=+big+ivy

I'll keep a running tally of the overall Rucker for Big Ivy. It's an enormous area which has a huge amount of old growth.

Acer saccharum sugar maple 131.8' 128.8' 125.7' 124.4' 123.7' 121.3' 118.4' 117.9' 117.2' 116.0'

Acer rubrum red maple 111.7'

Acer pensylvanicum striped maple 37.0'

Fraxinus Americana white ash 125.4' 124.2' 121.5' 121.4' 119.7'

Tilia heterophylla white basswood 129.3' 115.3'

Aesculus flava yellow buckeye 106.8' 104.5'

Ostrya virginiana hophornbeam 68.8' 62.2' 61.2' 60.3' 58.2' 53.8' 53.1' (tallest I've seen)

Carya ovalis red hickory 127.5'

Carya cordiformis bitternut hickory 125.2'

Betula lenta black birch 86.3'

Liriodendron tulipifera tuliptree 127.7' (right at 4000') pretty tall for that altitude.

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Re: Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

Post by Josh Kelly » Tue Dec 16, 2014 12:22 pm

Hey Brian,

I love that area. Big Ivy is one of the jewels of Pisgah National Forest, both for big trees/old-growth and rare plant and animal species.

If you haven't seen it, check out this report from Jess and I:

Waterfall Creek/Carter Creek, NC Jess Riddle
Sep 27, 2006 18:58 PDT


The Craggy Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to Asheville, North
Carolina rising to over 6000' elevation. The rugged peaks appear to
gradually blend into the rugged peaks of the Black Mountains, which
contain the highest peak east of the Mississippi (Mount Mitchell,
6684'), but they contrast strongly in geology. The gneiss and
metagreywacke of the Black Mountains weather to produce acidic soils
that support extensive stands of red spruce with dense tangles of
rhododendron underneath. Contrasting, the richer soils of Craggy
Mountains give spruce only limited range and thick herbs layers fill
more of the understory than rhododendron. Since spruce does not
dominate all of the high elevations, stunted, gnarled forests of
beech, yellow birch, and mountain ash cover the range's high,
windswept ridges and peaks helping to give the mountains their name.

IMG_0724_1_1.jpg (194542 bytes)
Uncut forest heavily dominated by eastern hemlock above
Douglas Falls in the Waterfall Creek watershed.

A survey of the Craggies for old-growth conducted by Alan Smith in
1998 determined the Waterfall Creek/Fork Ridge/Upper Mineral Creek
stand to be the largest remaining tract of uncut forest in the range.
The stand's 1577 acres of reported old-growth span half a vertical
mile to the top of Craggy Dome (6080'). Stunted northern hardwood
forests and extensive beech gaps persist in the harsh climate of
higher parts of the stand. Below them, the yellow birch become
increasingly large until a broad band of hemlocks is encountered at
about 4600'. Within the swath of hemlocks, patches of hardwood forest
with large sugar maples and diverse herb layers occupy the gentler
topography. Diverse hardwood forests with more southern species like
tuliptree grow along the streams at the lower edge of the stand.

To reach the stand, we drove up an idyllic mountain valley with broad
fields and stone buildings. At the end of the valley, a Forest
Service road winds for miles across the slopes and past the better
known old-growth of Walker Cove Research Natural Area before ending at
the Douglas Falls Trailhead. The trail immediately plunges into
old-growth, and traverses a slope covered with old mixed oak forest.
The herbaceous layer along the trail includes the uncommon Coreopsis
latifolia, woodland sunflowers, and several other species. As the
trail approaches the Douglas Falls, large hemlocks and sugar maples
form the canopy over witch-hobble, wood fern, and partridge berry.
Above the falls, the trail continues winding through successive groves
of sugar maple, hemlock, yellow birch, and beech, and eventually ends
on the Blue Ridge parkway.

Our path diverged from the trail at the falls. We crossed a
rhododendron covered slope and descended an open cove to the boulder
strewn Waterfall Creek. On the far side of the stream, 4600' high
Sprucepine Ridge rises up sharply, covered with large hemlocks and
rhododendron except for a few expanses of bare rock. Josh pointed out
that in the Craggies, rhododendron tends to only grow in areas with
thin soils. We weaved our way between the outcrops, and grabbed onto
rhododendron and dog-hobble to haul ourselves up to the more gentle
upper slopes of the ridge. Those slopes were a pleasant change with
deeper soils, few rhododendron, and sugar maples, basswoods, northern
red oaks and cherries mixing in amongst the hemlocks, and the rare
orchid, Goodyera repens, was flowering in several locations. The
hemlocks themselves were a welcome change from most of the southern
Appalachians; while a few areas had undergone noticeable decline from
the adelgid, most of the hemlocks remain a thick, lush green; however,
adelgid populations are heavy, so the real damage is about to begin.

On the far side of the ridge, we descended an open slope only about
100' to reach the headwaters of Carter Creek. Buckeye, basswood, and
clumps of Beech rose out of thick, rocky beds of stinging nettle.
Farther down the stream, yellow birch, white ash, black cherry sugar
maple and bitternut hickory also mixed into the canopy. None of those
species reached especially large sizes, so we veered up to the low
ridge separating Carter Creek from Bearwallow Branch. Bearwallow
Branch has more gentle topography than Carter Creek, and was
apparently more productive. Hence, loggers focused more on the
smaller stream. We saw clear evidence of logging on the edge of the
watershed in the general lack of old trees and the cut American
chestnut stumps.

STA_0736_1_1.jpg (296875 bytes)
Large hemlock on Carter Creek. 15'4.5" cbh and 143.0' tall.

Since the ridge appeared to hold little promise, we steered back down
towards Carter Creek, and on the way passed a small rock outcrop with
the rare climbing fumitory, an herbaceous vine with flowers and
foliage resembling squirrel-corn. Back at the stream, by far the
largest hemlock we had seen all day immediately greeted us. The tree
stood on a steep slope about 25' above where the stream sheeted across
bedrock. No shrubs obscured the view of the tree's massive trunk that
rose above surrounding smaller hemlocks, basswoods, and beech to a
height of 143.0'. However, more than the height, the slow taper above
the 15'4.5" cbh made the tree impressive. The total volume is
certainly over 1000 cubic feet and probably exceeds 1100 cubic feet;
greater than any other hemlock ENTS has found in limited searching
east of the Smokies.

Hoping to find other equally impressive trees since we were still at
approximately 3800' elevation, we continued down Carter Creek, but
quickly encountered badly eroded remnants of an old logging road. The
road probably explained the lack of large individuals of commercially
valuable species farther upstream. We also started seeing tuliptrees,
all of them young, further indication of high-grading along the
stream. The tuliptrees also indicated a slightly milder climate that
was mirrored by the herbaceous layer with more hepatica, yellow
mandarin, blue cohosh, black cohosh, and other rich site species
mixing in with the nettles. Fungal diversity also increased as we
proceeded downstream, and we stopped to collect a few oyster mushrooms
and chicken mushrooms for later consumption.

IMG_0749b_1_1.jpg (221652 bytes)
The large hemlock on Carter Creek near the confluence with
Waterfall Creek. 17'4" circumference, 147.4' tall.

Near the confluence of Carter Creek with Waterfall Creek, we again
stopped to look at a hemlock that stood out from the rest. This tree
stood on an extremely steep bank between a small stream-side flat and
a level bench, all covered by much younger and smaller trees. The
dog-hobble around the tree's base posed less of a challenge to
measuring than the 9.4' elevation difference between the high and low
sides of the tree. That grade put the lowest measurable circumference
5.1' above midslope, which came out to a whopping 17'4". Above the
influence of root flair, at 9.1' above midslope, the circumference was
a still impressive 14'10". The trunk gradually tapers as it ascends
to a shrub-like top 147.4' above the base. The larger base but faster
taper made the tree appear only slightly smaller than the hemlock that
had stopped us farther upstream.

Leaving that hemlock, we crossed the bench to Waterfall Creek, and
quickly encountered more old trees. However, again the remnants of a
road paralleled the stream and suggested selective cutting. The steep
slopes along the stream supported more rhododendron than Carter Creek,
but strips of rich forest with open understories and diverse herbs
still permitted us easy passage. Rock stonecrop and plantain-leaved
sedge were more common in these woods, but the more acidic slopes
still held the largest hemlocks, including a third giant 15'0" cbh x

Shortly upstream of that hemlock and downstream of a boulderfield, the
old roadbed ended. Above that point, we saw no evidence of past
logging, and started encountering larger hardwoods. Among those,
tuliptree reached 14' 2" cbh and northern red oaks reached 16'0" cbh,
the red oak the second largest reported from the mountain range.
However, the rich forest with those large trees again gave way to
smaller birches and rhododendron thickets as the soils thinned and the
stream approached its large namesake cascade. Eventually, the
rhododendron thickets gave way to expanses of bare rock, and we picked
our way upstream at the base of the cliffs. Not wanting to have to
negotiate the cascades and having completed almost a full loop, we
hiked up the slopes skirting a couple more rock outcrops and climbed
over one small rock ledge to get out of the Waterfall Creek gorge.

Upon scrambling over the ledge, we immediately met a 15'7" cbh
tuliptree that bested the mountain range girth record just set down in
the gorge. Making the tree even more surprising, it grew at about
4200' elevation, above the normal range for tuliptree, and obviously
had limited soil. However, the slope above did appear to have deeper
soil with striped maples and witch-hobble replacing rhododendron and
large hemlocks forming most of the canopy. We stopped briefly to
collect more oyster mushrooms and admire a relatively healthy American
chestnut, but quickly covered the short distance back to the trail and
the car pleased with our day in the woods.

Jess Riddle & Josh Kelly

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Re: Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

Post by bbeduhn » Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:31 pm

Thanks for reposting. I have read that before. That must have been an exciting trek, finding all those huge trees, including the largest hemlocks east of the Smokies! Any ideas on why the hemlocks at the entrance to Big Ivy are still doing fairly well? Much of northern Buncombe County and parts of Madison County have relatively healthy hemlock populations. they certainly aren't thriving but are hanging on very nicely.

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Re: Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

Post by dbhguru » Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:55 pm


That black birch becomes number 385 to go into the database. We're closing in on 400 trees measured. The story unfolds.

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

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Re: Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Jan 19, 2015 1:30 pm

I attempted to continue searching in and around the Walker Cove Research Area but was thwarted by a gate on the road. It's still possible to hike up from the lower parking lot so I expected to at least get the area adjacent to the research area covered. A road leads to the trail slightly above a promising looking flat along a mountain stream. Tulips and sycamores shoot up like rockets amongst older hemlocks, many of which are still alive. The further I went, the worse the hemlocks became.

The trail had some decent stuff, black birch in particular (Bob, I got you covered). I diverged on an old, unmaintained trail down to another stream. A huge, old black gum greeted me...there was more to come of the black gums. Young black birch codominated with tulips, and they were holding their own. A couple of sourwoods shot up through the canopy as well and red maple thrived. The tall sourwood is a new county record and could be a state record. I got back to the trail and went up above, finding a nice collection of yellow birches, not what I expect to see below 3,000 feet. These youngsters shoot right up and are much taller than what I usually see in old growth forests.

Speaking of old growth, there is a relatively new trail extension which has an abundance of old growth. Walker Creek Trail has been extended along the river. It appears as though this property was added much later to the National Forest. The trail follows an old road bed but not much logging took place here. Old tulips and black gums meander into the canopy. They have interesting shapes. The tulips are not tall as their crowns are battered. It appears that the oldest trees were spared from logging, along with all of the hemlocks. No huge hemlocks reside here. The largest ones are dead but the medium sized (2-3' d, 100'-120') are doing fairly well. The true stars are the white oaks, along with a pignut hickory, a red maple and the black gum. I hadn't planned on taking pictures but I had no choice when I saw the white oaks. These are the largest forest grown white oaks I've come across. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the old growth on the flats and did not bring my tape along with me. The girths are guesstimates from tree hugging, a very scientific form of girth measurement.

Leaving the old growth corridor, I traversed the very young third growth (40-45 years) where sycamores and tulips are taking advantage of very rich soils. There is a white pine plantation as well. These are 40 years old (whorl count) with a canopy of 130'. This area will be one to watch. Tulips rarely top 140' on flats, especially at under 50 years of age.

Platanus occidentalis sycamore 123.3' 119.2'

Pinus strobus white pine 137.6' 134.5' 131.5' 131.4' 131.0'

Acer rubrum red maple 126.3' 109.5' 107.4' 107.3'

Nyssa sylvatica black gum 95.9' 94.7'

Tsuga Canadensis hemlock 122.2' 118.2'

Fagus grandifolia beech 109.2'

Aesculus flava yellow buckeye 97.2'

Carya ovalis red hickory 118.2'

Carya glabra pignut hickory 128.2'

Magnolia acuminata cucumber 112.2'

Liriodendron tulipifera tulip 146.9'

Quercus rubra red oak 115.7'

Quercus Montana chestnut oak 120.0'

Quercus alba white oak 113.0' 112.6' ~13.5' cbh 114.5' ~15' cbh 107.0' ~12.5' cbh 121.5' 13+' cbh ~14' cbh fallen

Oxydendrum arboretum sourwood 103.6' 90.0'

Betula alleghaniensis yellow birch 81.9' 79.5'

Betula lenta black birch 100.9' 100.3' 100.1' 99.6' 97.5' 97.3' 96.9' 96.2' 96.1' 96.0' 96.0' 95.5' 95.4' 95.2' 94.2' 93.3' 88.4' 86.2'

Pictures to come.
Last edited by bbeduhn on Tue Aug 18, 2015 3:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Jan 19, 2015 3:30 pm

I forgot to post the tulip numbers. The tallest was 146.9', on a flat at 40-45 years old.

Now for the pics:
126' maple
126' maple
126' shaggy maple
126' shaggy maple
white oak
white oak
113' white oak
113' white oak
14'11" white oak
14'11" white oak
14'11"' white oak 114.5'
14'11"' white oak 114.5'
14'11" white oak
14'11" white oak
121' white oak, 12'4"
121' white oak, 12'4"
121' white oak, uniform height, wide crown
121' white oak, uniform height, wide crown
Last edited by bbeduhn on Mon Aug 17, 2015 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

Post by dbhguru » Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:16 pm


Thanks for collecting the black birch data. We now have 107 birches measured for North Carolina. Altogether, we have 427 in the black birch database. Their average height is 94.03 feet. Not bad for a species that isn't suppose to make it to 90 feet. North Carolina's average is highest at 103 feet!

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

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Re: Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

Post by bbeduhn » Tue Jun 30, 2015 3:00 pm

I did a little treecon along the Douglas Falls Trail and just a bit in Walker Cove as well. One discovery was encouraging...a live, large hemlock! It was just about 3' in diameter and 98' tall. It is located at nearly 4600', so that may explain why it survived. It does need a little help but has a fair amount of green. All other large hemlocks are completely dead. Some other, smaller ones are hanging on with some regeneration of saplings. I wanted to find a large cherry that I recalled seeing about 13 years ago. It measured 12'2" cbh.

Acer saccharum sugar maple 125.1' 123.7' 123.7' 118.5' 117.5' 116.3' 115.0'

Liriodendron tulipifera tulip 136.3' 134.0' above 4000'

Fraxinus americana white ash 115.2' 10'4" cbh

Betula allegheniensis yellow birch 79.4' 78.4' 78.3' 73.3'

Prunus serotina black cherry 110.5' 74.9' 12'2" cbh
big live hemlock
big live hemlock
Robinia pseudoacacia blk locust 117.3' in old growth forest

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Re: Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Aug 17, 2015 3:29 pm

I did some tape measuring along Walker Creek Trail. At least a dozen large, old growth white oaks reside here along with at least one old growth sugar, red, tulip, black gum, and a dozen or so beeches. A handful were mentioned in a previous post. All but the taller tulips and the hemlock appear to be old growth. The cuke, mockernut and red oak look older than their stats.

sugar maple 120.3'

red maple 126.0'

Tulip 120.4' 12'8" cbh
NLT 138'

black gum 7'1" cbh

hemlock 115.8'

beech 10'5" cbh

cuke ~8' cbh

mockernut ~9' cbh

red oak 11'9" cbh

white oak 14'11" cbh
12'4" cbh
11'9" cbh
11'8" cbh
11'5" cbh
Last edited by bbeduhn on Sat May 30, 2020 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Walker Cove Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary NC

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Dec 07, 2015 9:29 am

I did a little traipsing around Walker Cove and environs yesterday. This site is simply replete with sugar maples. They thoroughly dominate Walker Cove. One tree gave me some problems with ID, but eventually I figured it out.

Fraxinus americana white ash 133.6' 130.1' 122.1'

Magnolia acuminata cuke 121.8' 11' cbh 118.0' ~11' cbh

Carya cordiformis bitternut hick 125.3' 124.1'

Carya ovalis red hick 128.0'

Quercus rubra red oak 127.7' 124.0'

Quercus montana chestnut oak 104.6'

Aesculus flava yellow buckeye 112.3'

Prunus serotina black cherry 117.0' 114.2'

Betula lenta black birch 101.4' 100.0' 96.7' 94.2'

Betula allegheniensis yellow birch 91.5'

Robinia pseudoacacia black locust 104.1'

Tilia heterophylla white basswood 121.8'

Liriodendron tulipifera tulip 138.1' 135.3' 129.3'

Acer rubrum red maple 120.7' 111.7' 110.5'

Acer saccharum sugar maple 131.9' 128.5' 123.2' 122.0' 117.4' 114.3' 114.3'

I could have measured sugar maples all day. Many more are most certainly in the teens with some in the 120's. I likely got the tallest in Walker Cove. This was at the point where I stopped last time so I believe this was the same 131.8' from last time. Repeatability...

The white ash is stunning as well. Walker Cove Reserch Area is (estimating very roughly) about 50% sugar maple, 10% white ash, 10% white basswood, 7% black birch, 4% buckeye, 4% red maple, 4% cherry, 3% hophornbeam, 2% cucumber, 2% tulip, 2% bitternut hickory, 1% red hickory, 1% yellow birch.

Old growth fills the entire research area and a nice chunk of land below the road. The ground looks disturbed but is indicative of pit and mound topography, The small flats tend to contain some of the biggest and tallest trees. others reside just above these small flats, which measure about a tenth of an acre. The sugar maples and ash that grow on these flats appear to be in the 200-250 year range so they weren't caused by white man. nearby, young forests are present. They look to have been culled in the early 70's. Some older trees survived the logging. They stick out against a sea of 40 something tulips. Older forests are present at uneven intervals. Some places experienced high grading where others were substantially cut.

I still need to get to the primo old growth section. This is what Josh and Jess reported on. I'll need a full day in there.

These are the updated Rucker figures for what I have personally measured. There is a ton more to search.

Tulip 146.9'
white pine 137.9'
bitternut 136.1'
white ash 133.6'
sugar maple 131.9'
red oak 130.7'
pignut 128.2'
red hickory 128.0'
red maple 126.3'
sycamore 123.3'

R10 = 132.29'

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