Bearwallow Mountain, Gerton, NC

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bbeduhn
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Bearwallow Mountain, Gerton, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Tue Jul 11, 2017 9:05 am

Bearwallow Mountain is a biologically diverse mountain located between Asheville and Chimney Rock/Lake Lure, NC, not too far from Hendersonville. The upper reaches are still used as grazing for cows and is privately owned. An easement allows for a trail.The very top is open and has cow chips aplenty. The mountain tops out at about 4200'. The trailheads are at about 3500'.

It doesn't take long to notice that the forest is a bit unusual. I was immediately greeted by a couple of nice Biltmore ash. Mockernut hickories dominated for a while but were soon joined by black birch, white oak, Catawba rhododendron, flame azalea, and inexplicably, southern shagbark hickory. This tree is not native to the mountains and rarely grows above 1000'. It appears at about 3700' and dominates at 4100'+, where the forest gives way to pasture. I don't see how these could have been planted specimens. There are hundreds and perhaps thousands. I haven't been able to conclusively prove that these are southern (carya septenrionolis) vs. northern (carya ovata) but the bark clearly appears to be southern. The fruits are not yet developed enough to make a determination. If these are indeed the southern variety, this would be quite an anomoly!

There is a road which heads back toward the trailhead, used by the farmer and for the companies which lease the top for communications towers. This passes through some rich forest with basswood. Tree heights are small throughout the upper part of Bearwallow, so there are no height measurements. Tulip is almost completely absent from the upper mountain. Just a few were visible as the I approached the trailhead.

The Trombatore Trail heads down from the trailhead. A 9'3" black birch sits along the trail. Birch is the dominant tree in this northern hardwood forest. Biltmore ash and basswood are the next most common species in this section. Hickories are present, with red on the western flank and bitternut on the eastern flank. There is a confusing hickory as well, which I could not determine. A little further, tulip pops up and there are two tulips with some age, likely approaching 150 years. Down a bit lower, a relic tulip, the most gnarled and balded I've ever seen, resides. I would not be surprised if this is upwards of 450 years. It's ~ 4' d and not very tall. Many of these trees look like old growth. They seem to be slow growing despite fairly rich soils. There is a recent cut just beyond the old tulip. I didn't get much further but there is promise of some height in the next half mile or so. I didn't want to trample the herb layer so any cbh measurements will wait until winter.
communications towers
communications towers
Biltmore ash
Biltmore ash
basswood
basswood
9'3" black birch
9'3" black birch
9'3" black birch
9'3" black birch
gnarly relic tulip
gnarly relic tulip
mystery hickory with small leaves
mystery hickory with small leaves
shagbark hickory
shagbark hickory
shagbark hickory
shagbark hickory
shagbark hickory
shagbark hickory
trail companions
trail companions
lawnmowers
lawnmowers
Last edited by bbeduhn on Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Bearwallow Mountain, Gerton, NC

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Tue Jul 11, 2017 11:29 am

Southern shagbark,eh?! These are the trees I was asking about here years ago when I climbed the mountain. I couldn't figure out what they were and posted photos here and no one made a determination of what they were. (My photos were none too clear--old camera with low megapixel output.)

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bbeduhn
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Re: Bearwallow Mountain, Gerton, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:19 am

James,
I couldn't find your post on the hickories. They certainly look spot on for southern shagbark. I'll revisit to check the fruits. I didn't realize just how many were present on my first visit. They dominate along the pasture. How did they get there? Who knows?
Brian

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mdavie
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Re: Bearwallow Mountain, Gerton, NC

Post by mdavie » Thu Jul 13, 2017 6:02 am

There are definitely ovata in the mountains, scattered around- that's about as high as they grow as far as I know though.

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Bearwallow Mountain, Gerton, NC

Post by Larry Tucei » Thu Jul 13, 2017 4:37 pm

Brian- The Bark sure looks like Southern Shagbark really peeling in long layers. http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/pages/c ... e-shag.htm Larry

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bbeduhn
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Re: Bearwallow Mountain, Gerton, NC

Post by bbeduhn » Fri Jul 14, 2017 7:53 am

Larry,
That site is the best I've seen for distinguishing hickory species. Most sites and books just treat southern shag as a subspecies and don't give examples. It looks pretty obvious to me that they are the southern variety but I'll check out the fruit in late summer.

Michael,
Northern shagbark is typically listed to 3,000' in the Southern Appalachians and I'm sure there are instances where it grows a good deal higher. Tulip is usually listed to about 4,000', and I've seen it at 4900'.
Brian

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