Bois D'Arc Wildlife Management Area

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Jess Riddle
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Bois D'Arc Wildlife Management Area

Post by Jess Riddle » Mon Jul 07, 2014 9:28 pm

Nts,

While in Arkansas, I wanted to make sure I saw Osage orange in its native habitat. Looking at maps, I stumbled across Bois D’Arc Wildlife Management Area. Given that bois d’arc is another name for Osage orange and Bois d’Arc Creek runs through the heart of the WMA, I figured might see Osage orange there.
Bois d’Arc Creek
Bois d’Arc Creek
Perhaps fitting for Independence Day weekend, thousands of blooming American lotus captured my attention before I even reached the bottomland forests. Finger thick stalks raise the creamy flowers above the water like floral fireworks while the leaves the size of basketball hoops cover the shallows of the WMA’s central lake. The leaves are even substantial enough for wading birds to stand on and use as a fishing pads. Standing on the pads is probably a better idea than wading for the birds, because the lake is also home to alligators.
American lotus (Nulumbo lutea)
American lotus (Nulumbo lutea)
Bois d’Arc Lake
Bois d’Arc Lake
Note bird in center of photo
Note bird in center of photo
Along the lake’s narrowly swampy outlet steam, Osage orange grows under water hickory and in association with American elm, cedar elm, overcup oak, and sugarberry. Slightly higher ground between that stream and Bois D’arc Creek supports a forest that was completely unfamiliar to me. Bottomland post oak and cedar elm dominate with more cedar elm, and sugarberry in the midstory. The broad oak crowns, tall and thick sedge and grass herb layer, and canopy recently opened up by selective harvest give the stand a savannah like feel. The dominance of bottomland post oak suggests calcareous soils, and the presence of a few shumard oak and nutmeg hickory reinforces that inference.
Cluster of large bottomland post oaks
Cluster of large bottomland post oaks
The edge of the stand along the levee also supports a colony of small trees I initially mistook for black locust with unusual bark. A later look at the leaves and immature fruits made it clear the trees were not black locust, but still left me with no idea which legume I was looking at. The trees turned out to be Texas sophora, a small tree primarily restricted to central Texas and found on calcareous uplands and along streams.
Texas sophora (Sophora affinis) leaves
Texas sophora (Sophora affinis) leaves
Texas sophora
Texas sophora
Immature Texas sophora fruits.  Fruits will turn black when mature.
Immature Texas sophora fruits. Fruits will turn black when mature.
Most of the other bottomlands along Bois D’arc Creek show stronger resemblance to bottomlands elsewhere in southern Arkansas and farther east. Away from the stream, willow oak dominates with cedar elm filling gaps in the canopy and cedar elm and sugarberry in the understory. Near the stream, cherrybark oak dominates along with willow and water oak, and shagbark hickory is common in the midstory. Less common species along the stream include sycamore, nutmeg hickory, and Osage orange. Overcup oak and to a lesser extent Nuttall oak were common in minor depressions, and water elm often grows out of the stream bank.

Common overstory species reach large but not exceptional sizes at the site, so I focused more on the uncommon species. Cherrybark is the generally the largest species where present, and reaches at least 11.5’ cbh. LiDAR has them to 127’, which looks about right based on a quick vertical shoot from the ground. Willow oaks come fairly close to matching the cherrybarks. Water oaks also exceed 10’ cbh, and some winter measuring might yield some over 110’.
BoisDArcMeasurements.JPG
BoisDArcMeasurements.JPG (21.44 KiB) Viewed 1716 times
I feel like I never got into a good Osage orange stand. Most of the individuals I saw were about 2’ cbh, and looked young. The one I measured grows on the edge of what may be an abandoned pine plantation, and was simply one of the taller ones I saw. The largest were a little over a foot in diameter.

NTS has now measured two nutmeg hickories, but I hesitate to call the species under-measured. Nutmeg is the rarest hickory in the United States, so we may have measured a greater proportion of their total population than we have white pine. The one other nutmeg we have numbers for is the Georgia state champion, a taller but slimmer tree. This individual is by far the largest I saw, and is only about 13 points off of the national champion.
7’1” cbh x 99.7’ tall nutmeg hickory
7’1” cbh x 99.7’ tall nutmeg hickory
IMG_4900.JPG
The bottomland post oak is large relative to others I have seen, but I don’t have enough experience with the species to know just how large they can grow. Others nearly as large and taller were common at the site, so a more thorough search would likely turn up a larger individual. I have no idea if the Texas sophora is large or not.
10’3” cbh x 75.4’ tall bottomland post oak
10’3” cbh x 75.4’ tall bottomland post oak
IMG_4907.JPG
1’10” cbh x 31.5’ Texas sophora
1’10” cbh x 31.5’ Texas sophora
Jess

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Bois D'Arc Wildlife Management Area

Post by Erik Danielsen » Mon Jul 07, 2014 10:21 pm

While I love the northeastern species up here it amazes me to read southern reports like yours from Arkansas; each one seems to feature at least a few trees I've never heard of, and such diversity at any given site. Cedar Elm? Nutmeg Hickory? Texas Sophora and Nuttall Oak? Hard to imagine that the diversity just keeps increasing all the way down to its pinnacle in the tropics.

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Matt Markworth
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Re: Bois D'Arc Wildlife Management Area

Post by Matt Markworth » Tue Jul 08, 2014 5:02 am

Jess,

I'd also love to see Osage orange in a native setting. I like the bark especially. Compared to open-grown or fence row specimens up North, was the bark as gnarly on the Osage orange at Bois D'Arc?

I'll echo the sentiment that others have expressed in the past and say that some day I hope your trip reports are published as a collection of essays.

Matt

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Bois D'Arc Wildlife Management Area

Post by Larry Tucei » Tue Jul 08, 2014 7:58 am

Jess- Awesome report as usual. The Post Oak you measured is larger than any I've see in my region. I looked up the Ms Champion Post Oak it is 18' 11 CBH. Always enjoy your adventures. How were the insects and reptiles? Larry

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Bois D'Arc Wildlife Management Area

Post by Jess Riddle » Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:32 pm

Thanks for all the positive feedback. It takes me a good bit of time and energy to put together a good post, so it’s really nice to know people are enjoying them.

Erik,

I’ve actually been making up species for a few weeks now and waiting for someone to call me on it. Wait, did I say that out-loud? No. Just in writing. Well okay;)

The forests around here are fun, because there’s enough pattern that you know where to go see particular forest types but enough diversity that there are always a few surprises.

Matt,

The bark on the osage orange was generally furrowed, often fairly deeply for the size of the trees, but wasn’t exceptional in structure relative to other species with furrowed bark. Here is the one bark photo I took, of a more or less random individual.
Osage orange
Osage orange
Larry,

The oaks at this site actually weren’t post oak (Quercus stellata), but a similar species known as bottomland post oak or delta post oak (Q. similis). Bottomland post oak is, as the name implies, a tree of floodplains and poorly drained sites rather than the drought prone sites where typical post oak is most competitive. Bottomland post oak is also much less widely distributed being found primarily in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and adjacent areas. The leaves are less cross-shaped than post oak, and I guess you could say the appearance is roughly in between post oak and overcup oak.

Mosquitoes and gnats were a constant annoyance, but they weren’t so bad that I needed a blood transfusion. While looking for a log to cross Bois D’Arc Creek, I saw a rather thick banded snake on the end of a log; I didn’t get close enough to see if it was a cottonmouth.

Jess

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DonCBragg
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Re: Bois D'Arc Wildlife Management Area

Post by DonCBragg » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:29 am

Jess--You may want to explore the Rick Evans Grandview Prairie WMA (http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Pages/wmaDe ... x?show=551) for more examples of bois d'arc; I remember lots of it amongst the grasslands.

Don

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dbhguru
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Re: Bois D'Arc Wildlife Management Area

Post by dbhguru » Wed Jul 16, 2014 6:43 pm

Jess,

Your posts are always inspirational and bar setting for us. I wonder if some great Ent out there would be willing to take on the project of compiling your posts into a summary. One of several E-books we could put together. A very worthy project.

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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