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Thuja occidentalis

Posted: Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:47 am
by wisconsitom
Hey ENTS: So, spent the weekend in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. Been up there many a time, yet this trip surprised me in a number of ways. First, although the entirety of Door T. occidentalis central, what with it's Niagara Escarpment limestone bedrock (The species is a strong calciphile), I ran into numerous groves of truly huge "northern white cedars"......far more than I would have expected. So, although I'm not a real tree measurer, and certainly not by the standards here, I would urge anyone interested in documenting large specimens of this fascinating species to visit the area on the lake side-that's Lake Michigan, as opposed to the bay side, ie. the bay of Green Bay-to poke around near Jacksonport and Bailey's Harbor. Then, take the ferry up to Washington Island and explore that island's relatively wild north shore region. Limestone bluffs cascading down to the lake are simply beautiful beyond description, so I won't try, but man, the "cedar" here is almost unbelievable.

This would not be one of my posts if it didn't contain at least a note of depressing factoids, and this is no exception: Door County is under heavy development pressure, with rich guys building mansions along the shore in many areas, and these lakeshore areas are the very sections where the Thuja is-of course-at its best. But there are many large reserves present as well, and the developers haven't gotten to everywhere yet. Honestly, like I said, I'm not a true ENT, at least in terms of measuring trees, but I've got to think there's at least a new state record somewhere in this zone, especially now that a tornado took down the huge ones at Maribel Caves in Manitowoc County, just south of the area I reference here.

Hemlock, white spruce, sugar maple, white ash (too bad about EAB), beech, and paper and yellow birch make up a bunch of the rest of the forest. So there's that too. White pines are never at their best in Door Cty. it seems. Oh, sure there's some good ones, but overall, I think they do better in more acid soil areas of the state. Red pine is a poor option here, but there are some of course. But for the trees I mention in the first part of this post, man oh man.....I tells's something else.

Re: Thuja occidentalis

Posted: Thu Jul 21, 2016 1:23 pm
by Joe
"rich guys building mansions along the shore in many areas"

These are good times for rich guys!


Re: Thuja occidentalis

Posted: Thu Jul 21, 2016 6:20 pm
by Matt Markworth

Wow, that's fascinating. I have family in Sheboygan and am sure to be up there again some time. Thanks for the heads up.


Re: Thuja occidentalis

Posted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 9:25 am
by wisconsitom
You bet, Matt. Interesting sidenote: The basic forest type, composed of more northerly-occurring species,extends along Lake Michigan almost as far south as Milwaukee. Door Cty. is the best place to see the best stands, I think, but that type extends quite far south. Cetainly, Sheboygan would have once been well represented by this forest type.....and still is in certain areas.

Re: Thuja occidentalis

Posted: Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:32 pm
by miwinski
I recall Rock Island from camping there years ago and the old in some case gnarled trees on those limestone cliffs. I have not been back in decades but you have me thinking that they may be older than one would assume. Size does not always determine significant age. Has anyone done studies on these trees? There are trees on little islands in the Northwest off Forks that are ancient and yet just little gnarled shrubs. Similar old growth has been found clinging to the Escarpment of the Niagara Falls perhaps a more regionally relevant comparison.

Re: Thuja occidentalis

Posted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 8:22 am
by wisconsitom
Hi miwinski. Not sure if you're aware or not-no intent to insult your intelligence-nor do I necessarily know what all I've revealed in other threads related to this one....but Door County is a part of the Niagara Escarpment. Yes, a part of the very same chunk of limestone over which the famous falls plunges. And indeed, much study has been done of what turn out to be very ancient trees, growing very slowly, directly on some of those cliffs. That relates to the purpose I had in starting this thread, but is itself a different topic. What I'm reporting on here is the presence of very large specimens-not making any age claims-that are growing in this ultra-rocky county. Some of the soils are undoubtedly deeper, some less so, but overall, the conditions in this, the Bruce Peninsula of Ontario, and other maritime-influenced areas of the Great Lakes region having limestone at or near the surface, are such that very large specimens of white cedar can be found. So a sort of parallel issue-involving the same plant species-but in one case dealing with great antiquity, in the other, truly impressive size. In both instances, the trees could be very old. But white cedar in an ideal environment is not quite so slow-growing as the literature would have one believe.

In any case, should any of you have an interest in this species and care to check out an area having many, many specimens, and many, many very large ones, Door County is your place. And to break that down just a bit more, the "lake side" is both less developed and has more of the very large ones, it seems, as did also, the northern end of Washington Island. Rock Island is all white cedar, and there, the cliffs are especially dramatic. And the Garden Penninsula-that part of Upper Michigan which geologically-speaking is an extension of the Niagara Escarpment-is full of more of the same.

Re: Thuja occidentalis

Posted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:57 am
by Larry Tucei
Tom- Thanks for the info I go up to Wisconsin a lot. Although I'm in the northwestern area maybe I could go by and check them our sometime. Larry

Re: Thuja occidentalis

Posted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:43 am
by wisconsitom
Heh......a little shall we say "moist" in NW Wisconsin of late! Some place up there received 14 inches of rain in one event recently, with the entire area getting anywhere from 5 to 11 inches from that storm event. Right where the dear governor and his campaign contributors wanted to site this planet's largest open-pit iron ore mine.......and now, a giant hog farm, something like 30,000 hogs. That's just a lot of pig shit!

Re: Thuja occidentalis

Posted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:30 pm
by Lucas

Not really a giant, but a very persistent White Cedar in the Niagara Glen, and doing quite well by it! Kind of Giant-Squid-like.

Re: Thuja occidentalis

Posted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 1:01 pm
by wisconsitom
Awesome. If you or I tried to get a tree growing on a rock like that, we'd fail every time. That's one of the things I love about white cedar stands-their many old-growth characteristics. Where my land is, in Oconto County, WI in the "near north", numerous very large white cedar somehow had a paper birch get started right next to them such that the two trees are as I like to call it, "friends for life", the faster-growing birch often exceeding in height the white cedar. There's not one, not two such examples in that swamp, but many! Too bad I'm such a slacker when it comes to photos......this is a most interesting site.

Thanks for sharing.