The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion trees

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Ranger Dan
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The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion trees

Post by Ranger Dan » Sat Feb 26, 2011 11:29 pm

our beloved king
our beloved king
Bedford Tuliptree 038web.jpg (97.88 KiB) Viewed 2142 times
Samantha inside the giant
Samantha inside the giant
Bedford Tuliptree 007web.jpg (137.14 KiB) Viewed 2142 times
Sam hugs the interior root
Sam hugs the interior root
Bedford Tuliptree 047web.jpg (107.63 KiB) Viewed 2142 times
I visited the Bedford Tuliptree again today. The gate of the fence enclosing the tree is open, so you can go up to the tree and walk around inside the trunk to see just how amazing it is, if you're willing to risk trespass on closed city property. Samantha, who served as my photo model, was in awe. It is indeed alive and has vigorous shoots from its remaining limbs. Sad and enraging it is, though, that it was so mutilated. This tree has been a friend to me since I first saw it in 1971, when I was 13. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. It was thought to be at the time the largest tree in Eastern America, and until I experienced the giant trees of the far West, it was the largest tree I had ever seen.

I agree that many trees have been erroneously elected as champions...I recall a disappointing trip through a vast corn field in Ohio to see the then-national champion Sycamore on the Scioto River, with a reported diameter of, I think, 12 feet. I had imagined a single towering trunk like I had never seen. It turned out to be twin trunks fused only a few feet off the ground, so It was not the tree in my imagination, and I thought unworthy of its status. It's an awesome sight, anyway, and deserves to be preserved, nonetheless.

Forty years ago The Bedford Tuliptree was intact and in the woods. With a trunk about 10 feet in diameter, the thought didn't occur to me that it should matter that it branched a few feet off the ground. If anything, that made it more interesting. Now that its interior has been revealed, it's more interesting than ever, with sculptural elements that tell of its ancience. What other tree on Earth has a giant root two feet in diameter arising overhead to feed on the composted wood inside its hollow cavity? It has a presence that I know of in no other Eastern tree. In the years spent out West I've been on many big tree pilgrimages. To me this tree ranks high among even the giant sequoias and the bristlecone pines...many of which, by the way, have multiple trunks. The national champion western red cedar in Olympic National Park is a fascinating tree, too, though its few remaining limbs barely cling to life, and its trunk is rotten except for thin lines of bark. The famous Montezeuma cypress in Mexico, thought by some to be the world's largest tree, has multiple iterations (forgive me if I misuse the term).

Some have suggested that the Bedford Tuliptree shoud be cut down on account of its having been mutilated, or because it may pose a risk to property or human safety, or even because it does not fit into a scientific concept of competitive status as a single-trunked tree. I would hope that we, as the community of big tree lovers might thelp bring to the world an ethic of appreciation for the wonders of nature as they are, rather than for what mankind thinks they shoud be in order to fit our ideals. Likewise, I hope others will be supportive if the need arises to call for preserving this pricelss relic.

I recall reading that some the dead hemlocks in Joyce Kilmer I recently saw still standing had been dynamited. Others I've seen have been cut down in many places that I thought should have been left to a dignified demise. Since my childhood, to me the hemlocks have been the special mountain tree, where my family would retreat to their cool shade on Sunday picnics at the Peaks of Otter...and I grieve their loss everywhere so woefully I can barely speak of it. So, perhaps some of you can relate to my feelings about my beloved tulliptree. I regret that some do not appreciate it as I do.
Dan in yellow buckeye
Dan in yellow buckeye
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I recently found a remarkable yellow buckeye, a fantastic, hollow, sculpted tree. It turned out to be the national champion. That matters far less to me than the fact that a remarkable tree had been revealed to the world and was brought to notoriety, so that it might be preserved, enjoyed, and appreciated by others. It is featured in Remarkable Trees of Virginia, by Nancy Ross Hugo and Jeff Kirwan. I am more embarrassed than honored that my name appears in the article about it. I had nothing to do with this tree's greatness, but I'm glad to share this image of me inside it on the day we met in 2008.

Ranger Dan

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Will Blozan
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Re: The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion t

Post by Will Blozan » Sun Feb 27, 2011 9:25 am

Dan,

Great photos and writing! Thanks for sharing this intimate story. That root sounds really awesome.

The 1998+ National Champion yellow buckeye in the Smokies was also totally hollow; it is now a rotting hulk. But in it's glory several people could fit inside a small opening. In the photo below you can see an arm inside the trunk.
1998 National Champion Yellow Buckeye, Cosby, TN GRSM
1998 National Champion Yellow Buckeye, Cosby, TN GRSM
Will

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Jenny
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Re: The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion t

Post by Jenny » Sun Feb 27, 2011 1:11 pm

I have a very eloquent comment: WOW! You guys see awesome (literally) trees. It's hard for me even to imagine. Glad to know that they are out there.

Jenny
Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. ~Bill Vaughn

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James Parton
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Re: The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion t

Post by James Parton » Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:31 pm

Dan,

Great post! I share your intimate feelings concerning this tree and indeed all trees. You have spoken for the great Bedford Tuliptree and we have listened!
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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bbeduhn
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Re: The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion t

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:21 am

The only time I saw the Bedford Tulip, it was thriving. It must have been in 2004. I was a little disappointed that it had six or seven trunks but that enormous bole was unmistakably grand. Only one trunk had died off and one looked like was dying but five were doing remakably well. My heart sank when I heard it had split and was pruned almost to oblivian. It is reassuring that it's sprouting again. It now reminds me of the ancient oaks in the UK.
Brian

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dbhguru
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Re: The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion t

Post by dbhguru » Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:53 am

Dan,

I echo the kudos of the others. So long as a tree is truly a single tree instead of a fusion of two or more trees, I can appreciate the complexity of the organism. The awesome live oaks that Larry documents and the great sycamores of the Northeast deserve all the respect we can give them. I hope you'll be able to join Will and I at Poplar Forest on April 22nd in our modeling of one of the great tuliptrees on the lawn. I've been busily working away to perfect the ground-based modeling process. When Will climbs and takes measurements aloft, we'll compare the two methods. Should be fun. I'd also love to see some of the great tuliptree sites in VA that you know about. We need lots more data for Neil's study and VA should be well represented.

Bob
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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James Parton
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Re: The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion t

Post by James Parton » Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:47 am

I dunno, Bob. I have seen some awfully impressive fusions in which to an untrained eye looks as a single tree. Silver Maples are well known for this. We oughta call such trees " Marriage Trees "" For the two shall become one ". Maybe biblically this works for trees too!

I did a post for neil. The recent Rattlesnake Lodge MST one. Have You and Neil seen it? Hopefully it can be used.
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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dbhguru
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Re: The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion t

Post by dbhguru » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:13 am

James,

Yes, I picked up the data for Neil. Thanks. The more sites the better.

Bob
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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Ranger Dan
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Re: The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion t

Post by Ranger Dan » Mon Feb 28, 2011 5:48 pm

Bob-

Yes, I would like to meet you and all. I know you all must have a busy day planned with the tree measuring project, but hopefully there will be time to take a look at some of the other trees on the Poplar Forest property I've heard about while you're there. And if you and Will haven't had a look at the interior of the Bedford tree, perhaps some controversy can be settled, for it soon will be too late: is it a fusion of trunks?...is the interior column a root, or what? Sweetbrier woods is nearby, too. There are some very mature second growth tulips there. I'm aquainted with the Sweetbrier naturalist, who may know of other significant stands on the 2,000+ acre property. I will ask right away. I need to get to know the place better, anyway, because I'm leading a native plant walk there in June.

While we're on big tuliptrees...I should mention that in the 80's I found old growth with large tulips in Shenandoah N.P. on the Doyles River trail, and at South River falls. In my journal I wrote there are 4' DBH tulips and other trees as large, and was the most beautiful virgin forest I had seen in VA. One of them is hollow with entryway. Then there's the stand in the upper Staunton river, featured in Remarkable Trees. You all probably know about these places. It will be great to share our discoveries. I have not been in the company of Ents before...look forward to meeting you!

Dan

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dbhguru
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Re: The Giant Bedford Tuliptree: some thoughts on champion t

Post by dbhguru » Mon Feb 28, 2011 8:34 pm

Dan,

Monica and I will be in VA for about a week and a half. Part of the time, we'll will be on the Parkway. We'll be starting the book on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Oh yes, on April 21, we'll be at Montpelier. Might you be able to join us there?

BTW, I lived in VA from 1971 to 1975 when I was assigned to the Pentagon. I explored the Blue Ridge region every weekend. Monica has become a Virginia convert. Virginia is one of our other adopted homes. We love VA. We have many friends there. Monica and I claim Massachusetts, Virginia, Colorado, and Wyoming. I

I'd like to see and sample as many tuliptree sites as possible on the April trip. I haven't seen the tuliptree sites you mentioned. Gotta see them.

Bob
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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