LeClair Tulip Tree Grove Revisit

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LeClair Tulip Tree Grove Revisit

Post by ryandallas » Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:03 pm

It has been almost eight years since Bob, Bart, my father and I found the LeClair Tulip tree. That event played an important role in my evolution as an amateur naturalist. The tree, the grove the tree grows in, the memories of that day, and the whole valley are special to me. Recently I decided to remeasure the LeClair tree and some other remarkable tulips that grow in the vicinity. I ended up measuring eight trees in total, which I will describe below.

I am having trouble posting photos, so I have linked to my Flickr account.



Stats: ~140 x 13'1"

This "tree" appears to be two distinct individuals that are fused at the base. The trunk that's closer to the river is the largest trunk in the whole grove. Measured at six feet above ground level, it is 13'1" in circumference! The base flares out a bit too, so it might be 15 feet around at breast height, but it's impossible to know. Taken together, the two trunks have a looming, wall-like quality. A sassafras tree that fell over five years ago now rests in between the two trunks. The crown is large, with heavy limbs. This is a very imposing tree.

I included this tree just because the base is so big. It is not one of the tallest in the grove. I did not obtain a satisfactory height measurement, but straight-up shots revealed that it is in the ballpark of 140 feet.



Stats: 150.5' x 11'10"

This is, in my opinion, the noblest tree in the grove. It combines great height, a hefty trunk and a perfectly-formed, almost conical crown. Other trees in the vicinity are taller, and the Double Tree is girthier, but this one has the biggest visual impact. Therefore I decided to call it the Patriarch.

There isn't much more to say, really. You have to see this one. This is the king of the grove.



Stats: 146' x ~8'

I knew that this tree is not one of the tallest, or one of the biggest, but I decided to measure it anyways. It is a very picturesque tree. It grows right on the banks of the Pequonnock; you can see its roots reaching towards the river. It reminded me of a lighthouse by the ocean.

Unfortunately, its location will end up killing it, and maybe soon. The side of the trunk facing the river has completely rotted away. The tree has maximum protection from the elements, but I still wouldn't be surprised if it were to fall within the next couple of years. Indeed, a tulip tree growing under almost identical conditions fell several years ago, narrowly missing the LeClair tulip tree and Neighbor.

I could not get a satisfactory girth measurement, so I estimated. Estimation is at breast height.



Stats: 158.5' x 9'1"

This is the grove's namesake tree. It was measured by Bob 2012, with a Suunto clinometer and a simple laser range finder. It instantly became Connecticut's tallest accurately-measured hardwood tree.

The tree is spectacular. It has a sweeping, almost broom-like crown. At about one-hundred feet a large reiteration breaks off, adding character to the tree. Its trunk butts up against a large gray boulder--a nice touch. Certainly an amazing tree--but is it still the tallest?


Stats: 160.4 x ?

Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph this tree. I also forgot to measure its girth. In the meantime, I will do my best to do this tree justice, as well as explain the methods I used to measure it.

The Neighbor grows right by the LeClair tree--hence the name. It is not the nearest neighbor, but it is the nearest really tall neighbor. In fact, according to my measurements, it is even taller than the LeClair Tulip tree! However, I have to give a disclaimer here. My laser could not penetrate the thick undergrowth, so I had to make the dubious assumption that the tree's trunk is perfectly straight, and then work out the trig from there. This method can produce substantial errors, even if the tree's axis tilts by half a degree. So this measurement has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Still, the tree is clearly very tall. If it is not 160 feet, then it is in the mid to upper 150s.

In terms of its appearance, it is quite similar to the LeClair tree. It has the same sweeping, broom-like crown, and it even has an analogous reiteration.



Stats: 156.7 x 11' 7"

This is an incredible tree. It combines great height, a large base and a massive, heavy-limbed crown. This tree, like the Patriarch, appears to be very old; many of the trees in the vicinity may be its progeny. If its growth pattern were more refined, then it would be the king of the grove. While scouting out the grove, I knew I needed to include this one just because it was so obviously super-tall. In fact, I thought it might eclipse the LeClair tree. I decided to name it the Contender.

MEasuring this tree proved to be difficult. Even though straight-up shots yielded heights in the 157 range (even a 165' reading, which I could not replicate), I struggled to break 150 while measuring from the trail that's above the tree. Eventually I decided to use the same dubious method I used while measuring the Neighbor. This measurement must also be taken with a grain of salt.



Stats: 154' x 10'

This tree grows right beside a small trail that weaves its way through the grove, so, having run out of names, I decided to name it Trail Tree. It appears to be one of the younger trees in the grove. It has the classic form of a young TT--a disproportionately small crown on a very long trunk. However, it also has a respectable girth, so maybe it's older. It is a specimen tree, and appears to be very vigorous.


https://www.flickr.com/photos/186568131@N05/49426174363/in/dateposted-public/ (Discovery is the tree in the foreground)

Stats: 160' x 8'2"

This was without question the greatest find of the day, even though I measured it only because of its history.

Discovery grows in a grouping of four TTs, just to the right of the small trail that goes through the grove. It leans quite a bit, and its trunk is not too girthy. It lacks the classic tulip form of say, the Trail Tree. However, this tree played an important role in the discovery of the LeClair tree. When I scoured the grove for the first time, doing straight-up shots with the simple rangefinder I bought from Ed, this was the first tree I hit. I still remember the reading--49 yards. I was pumped. I contacted Bob, and the rest is history.

Well, it appears that this tree was the main attraction all along. I got readings in the 150 range while measuring it from the main trail--but then I noticed two leaders that were mostly obscured. Hitting these, I consistently got readings of 157, 158, 159, and even 2 160s. Circling the tree, I was able to get a straight-up shot of 157. I believe that this tree is legit. We might have a 160 foot hardwood in New England.


Here is a small map I sketched up:

Last edited by ryandallas on Mon Jan 27, 2020 7:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: LeClair Tulip Tree Grove Revisit

Post by a_blooming_botanist » Thu Jan 23, 2020 6:56 pm


Thanks for sharing your findings and photos from the LeClair Tulip Grove! Since traveling with Bob and Monica to the Smokies and seeing the unbridled growing power of the species, I have fallen in love with tulip trees. Unfortunately, I live just outside of the natural range. Thanks to a kind donation from the Leverett household, I have a baby tulip tree transplanted from their yard. :)

Wow! A 160-ft New England hardwood is remarkable! If you want to work around the problem of thick undergrowth preventing a clear shot to the base, you could use a hybrid sine-tangent approach. Use the sine method for your laser shot to the top, then use the tangent method for the lower portion. That way you only need a horizontal laser shot to the trunk and an angle to the base.

I’d love to check out this place sometime! My focus is mostly within the borders of Massachusetts, but Connecticut clearly has some really great stuff to offer!


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Re: LeClair Tulip Tree Grove Revisit

Post by ryandallas » Fri Jan 24, 2020 5:02 pm


No problem!

I too have seen TTs in the Smokies. Mostly in the Joyce Kilmer Forest. That was surreal. Having seen the Sierras and the Pacific Northwest, I can say it was a similar feeling.

I'm glad that you have a tulip tree of your own!

It is a remakable thing. I have been, and will be focusing on TTS because I think they're the most scientifically interesting species in CT, if dimensions are the only criteria. If these measurements can by verified by another Ent, then I think this will make a valuable addition to botanical literature.

That's indeed the method I used. I might be overstating the inaccuracy of the method, but it is more prone to error.

If you'd like to see the grove sometime, just let me know and we can set something up!


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