Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

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ElijahW
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Re: Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

Post by ElijahW » Mon Feb 26, 2018 7:58 am

Kouta,

The tallest Abies balsamea I know of is 104.6.’ It’s located on private property near the town of Newcomb, in the central Adirondacks. It was last measured in 2015.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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KoutaR
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Re: Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

Post by KoutaR » Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:43 am

Thanks, Elijah! I wait a few days if I get other corrections and update the tables then.

Kouta

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dbhguru
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Re: Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

Post by dbhguru » Tue Feb 27, 2018 8:45 am

Kouta,

I spoke to Jess Riddle on the phone last evening. It turns out that he did measure an eastern cottonwood in Arkansas to 161 feet tall, which is considerably more than the previous 154-footer champ in Meeman Shelby Park in Tennessee. This places the cottonwood in the group of eastern tree species that add 20 to 30 feet of height going from north to south. It's surprising how many species seem to be fitting that spread.

I think Jess plans to post on his Arkansas confirmation and hopefully a number of other of his eye-popping discoveries of recent years and months. Jess is a treasure trove of information about where individual species achieve their best growth performance and why. Years ago, he posted some of the most complete trip reports that had been seen in NTS. He single-handedly put northeastern South Carolina on the tall tree map.

Jess's interests lie in pure science - in accordance with his education. I would be very interested in his most current observations with respect to growth patterns for species like the tuliptree and white pine. When Jess was posting here on the BBS, Erik and Elijah had not yet been unleashed on the unsuspecting forests of New York, and look at what they've confirmed. We see that both of these species can attain heights of 160 feet and more for a band of latitude stretching about 9 degrees for the tulips, I think, and maybe 10 for the great whites.

Kouta, we'll continue searching for the most current information on those species you have in your comparison table. You're carrying comparisons and contrasts to the genus level. Way cool.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
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KoutaR
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Re: Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

Post by KoutaR » Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:45 am

Thanks Bob! I also loved to read Jess' reports. Pity that he seems to have left the BBS.
dbhguru wrote:This places the cottonwood in the group of eastern tree species that add 20 to 30 feet of height going from north to south. It's surprising how many species seem to be fitting that spread.
I remember as I hiked with Doug Bidlack in Ontario east of Lake Superior. Repeatly as I thought I have found a tall specimen for species, Doug replied: "it grows in the Smokies, we have no chances".

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bbeduhn
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Re: Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

Post by bbeduhn » Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:46 am

Betula lenta was thought until recently to have achieve its greatest height in the Smokies, but new York has taken that title. The Smokies still have the top several Platanus occidentalis but the northeast and midwest are approaching the Smokies in height. Some areas just haven't been explored enough.

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dbhguru
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Re: Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

Post by dbhguru » Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:56 am

Kouta,

The eastern cottonwood reaches some surprising dimensions in the more northerly part of its range. The Champlain Valley in upstate NY is a prime example. I've measured single-trunk specimens to almost 27 feet in circumference in Plattsburgh and heights to 134 feet nearby. I've measured several other cottonwoods to between 20 and 22 feet around. The cottonwoods in the Saint Lawrence River Valley in western NY is another hot spot. How the species overcomes the severe climate of upstate NY, other than being an exceptionally fast grower, is a mystery to me. It isn't known for the strength of its wood.

Here in western Mass, we've yet to break 130 feet in height (127 tops), although, we've broken 24 feet in girth. A tree in Pittsfield, MA is the only 20+ footer that I've found. That said, relatively big trees 12 to 16 feet in circumference are fairly common in the river valleys. The species commonly tops 100 feet, but usually maxes out between 100 and 115 feet. Relatively few cottonwoods surpass 120 in Massachusetts. Its limited range in Massachusetts restricts its opportunities to excel.

Range wide, the species continues to earn its reputation as being a whopper. However, the often cited report of a maximum height of 190 feet is almost guaranteed to be the product of a tangent-based measurement gone astray. Jess Riddle's 161-footer is probably a statistical outlier, but there should be a few more spots that we haven't found with 150-footers. They're likely all going to be located below 40 degrees north latitude. If Erik or Elijah should confirm a 150-footer in NY state, we'd have to reassess how the species performs above 40 degrees.

Bob
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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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Feb 28, 2018 12:03 pm

The tallest Zoar Valley Cottonwood grew at least a foot in the last couple seasons, going from 140' to 142.2' between november 2016 and january 2018. It's not inconceivable that it could wind up being the fourth species to hit that threshhold in Zoar but does seem likely to see breakage before hitting 150. There are at least a couple other trees in the upper 130s in the canyon. 150' seems likely as an upper potential limit in tye setting but I don't know if we'll see it realized.

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

Post by Jess Riddle » Tue Mar 27, 2018 8:30 pm

Kouta,

Fascinating comparison. Thanks for gathering the numbers and laying out the comparison. Makes you wonder about eastern temperate Asia too.

A few minor updates
Malus angustifolia--56.1'
Populus deltoides--161.7' (same AR tree)
Prunus serotina--153.3' (Smokies, where else)

It's interesting that the two genera where Europe is the most taller (Abies and Alnus) have much taller species in western NA than eastern NA.

Overall, I suspect Europe gets a bit short-changed in the comparison due to historical differences between the continents. North America has lower population density, a shorter history of settlement, and a conservation movement had developed prior to complete land clearing. Consequently, higher quality sites may remain in forest in North America than Europe.

A couple notes on Cottonwood. I don't think the 161.7' tree is an anomaly. Of the five sites in the lower Mississippi Valley where I've measured cottonwood, all had trees at least 145' tall. Cottonwood also reaches 150' on both loess and floodplain sites. As far as the species reaching large sizes in cold climates, I'd suggest that goes back to the species' ecology and basic life history strategy. Cottonwood is a quintessential early succession species. They devote their resources to maximizing growth rates, but do so at the cost of investing in defense. In humid southern climates with long growing seasons they achieve great growth rates, but succumb to pathogens relatively quickly. In colder and drier climates, pathogens are less aggressive and cottonwoods achieve much greater life spans. At Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota cottonwoods along the Little Missouri River have been cored at over 300 years old.

Jess

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mdvaden
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Re: Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

Post by mdvaden » Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:06 pm

Is there a way to mark the tables for which trees are native to each continent and which were planted? That, and how old or young the tallest are could add to the comparison.
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KoutaR
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Re: Europe vs. the eastern US - comparing tree heights

Post by KoutaR » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:25 am

I updated the tables with Jess' new results. In addition, I added Celtis and Larix, of which there are now European laser measurement. Formerly, all the laser measurements of Larix decidua were outside its native range. In European lowlands it becomes over 10 m taller than in its native range in the mountains.

Jess, that's true what you said about historical differences. I would say the high quality sites in eastern NA are larger and more numerous than in Europe. In addition, in western Europe, where the tall tree potential is likely higher, old-growth is almost non-existent. In eastern Europe, where there are virgin forests, very little laser-measuring has taken place. There are also non-measured species in eastern Europe that would increase Europe's points. Corylus colurna reaches at least 25 m and Juniperus drupacea has been said to reach even 40 m but there are no known laser-measurements in their native range.

Mario, all the trees in the tables are native to the area where they are growing. A few of the European trees are planted but they could grow there by nature. If non-native trees were included, Europe would rank higher. Examples:

Abies grandis - 63,5 m (64,28 m in the past)
Carya illinoiensis - 48 m
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana - 41 m
Larix decidua - 53,8 m
Picea sitchensis - 64 m
Pinus lambertiana - 51,6 m
Platanus x hispanica - 50,6 m
Thuja plicata - 48,4 m
Tsuga heterophylla - 56 m

Kouta

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