Three Big Tuliptrees in Baltimore

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MickR
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Three Big Tuliptrees in Baltimore

Post by MickR » Mon May 21, 2012 2:49 pm

On my weekly bike loop on the Gwynns Falls trail here in the city, I have been admiring three big tulip poplars over the past couple of years. I had been riding by the third one without stopping to admire... I'm not sure why as it is right on the trail and sports a most colossal trunk. Gwynns Falls trail is based on an Olmstead Brothers stream-side park created in 1904. Sections of it are quite woody and secluded. Anyway, if you are a fan of Liriodendron tulupifera, here are two feature trees and one naturally-planted giant. First up in order of size, the big poplar at the top of the hill in Leakin Park:
Big tulip poplar in Leakin Park
Big tulip poplar in Leakin Park
I posed my bike at the base to show it's size. I measured 13'-6 circumference. This tree is sited perfectly at the top of the hill. Some branches cascade down and makes for a lovely picnic spot, and also makes it easy to get eye-to-eye with some tulip flowers (as I write this the rain is likely filling up the cups and petals falling to the grass).

Next up is this old beauty, marked with a plaque, in the center of the Crimera estate, part of the park system and also part of Outward Bound.
Big tulip poplar in Crimera
Big tulip poplar in Crimera
I measured 15'-4 circumference. How old could this tree be? Thomas Winans (founder of the B&O railroad) built a house on this estate in 1856; I wonder if the tree was already established and they chose to leave it when they created the clearing? Or was it planted?

This third tree is a whopper. You can barely see my bike in this picture. The site is the high side of a small tributary which feeds into the Gwynns Falls with a mini canyon between two high points in the woodsy-est section of the park. Way up above, in the winter, one can see the neighborhood of Fairmount Park. On the other side of the tributary, up high is an abandoned park structure and playground, crumbling to bits and surrounded by weedy parking lots. The good flow of groundwater must have fed this biggie.
Huge tuliptree on Gwynns Falls trail
Huge tuliptree on Gwynns Falls trail
I had a real hard time measuring this tree, as the trail side is about 4 feet or so higher than the slope side, which is also covered in thorny bushes. Closeup:
Giant tuliptree
Giant tuliptree
That is some gnarled bark. I made this trip on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking last month... and almost named this tree Titan but thought better of it later. I decided to put the tape at about 3 feet up on the trail side, which would be about 6 or so feet up on the slope side. I got 17'-6 - the biggest tree I ever measured around here. I thought this was big until I looked up the state champ... haha. The trunk looks to have burn scars; look up above the bike seat. Curious.

There are lots of other big trees along the Gwynns, especially along the escarpment; I think I shall take my time and look for some big beeches and white oak next time out.

RyanLeClair
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Re: Three Big Tuliptrees in Baltimore

Post by RyanLeClair » Mon May 21, 2012 9:32 pm

The last one is unlike any tulips I've seen on here, the low-branching specimen. It has the form of a silver maple or something.

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Bart Bouricius
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Re: Three Big Tuliptrees in Baltimore

Post by Bart Bouricius » Tue May 22, 2012 6:17 am

Nice Tulips Ryan. My guess is that the last Tulip tree is an old one judging from the size and the balding at the base. I suspect that someone decided that the base of the tree was an ideal place to have a camp fire at one time, as there are not burn marks on other parts of the tree, and none closer to the base. There was probably some damage early on that caused it to split into 3 trunks that low down.

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bountreehunter
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Re: Three Big Tuliptrees in Baltimore

Post by bountreehunter » Tue May 22, 2012 5:37 pm

Mick, Thanks for the info. i would love to check these out. i have only been to this park a couple times but north of where you found these tulips is a huge Black Walnut. 200" circumference. its directly off windsor mill rd. here are the coordinates
N 39' 18.771 W 76' 41.490

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bbeduhn
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Re: Three Big Tuliptrees in Baltimore

Post by bbeduhn » Thu May 24, 2012 9:09 am

That last one reminds a bit of the big tuliptree in Bedford, VA. The Bedford tree has a much larger base, though. I got to visit the Bedford tree before it was pillaged. I agree that the Baltimore tree has the form of a silver maple. I've never seen a tulip where the limbs were very nearly the same size as the trunk.

http://www.ents-bbs.org/viewtopic.php?f=128&t=2117

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Three Big Tuliptrees in Baltimore

Post by Larry Tucei » Thu May 24, 2012 2:44 pm

Mick, Beautiful Tuliptrees. The last one has the form of an Oak way cool! The sizes make your bike look tinnnnny! Larry

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MickR
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Re: Three Big Tuliptrees in Baltimore

Post by MickR » Fri May 25, 2012 7:39 am

I googled those coordinates for the black walnut but that didn't work :( - how do I look that up?

I do remember seeing scars from another huge branch on the back of the 3rd tuliptree - I'll get more pictures when I ride back over there next week.

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edfrank
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Re: Three Big Tuliptrees in Baltimore

Post by edfrank » Fri May 25, 2012 8:15 am

Mick,

It is simply a formatting difference in the coordinates. Try
39°18'46.26"N 76°41'26.94"W = 39°18.771'N 76°41.490'W

I use Google Earth to look at coordinates. It is free to download and install. You click on the little icon in the menu bar above the map that looks like a push pin, and type the coordinates or cut and past the coordinates in the spaces provided. Then move around the map image and zoom in on the marker you just created.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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MickR
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Re: Three Big Tuliptrees in Baltimore

Post by MickR » Tue May 29, 2012 7:45 am

OK - so I went back to see the trees on Sunday morning. I got a few more pictures of the 3rd one, but only one came out good in the hot, hazy air. But, I inspected the back of the tree best I could and for certain there was a damaging event early in its life to make the trunks separate so much. As you can see below, there is quite a flat spot at the crotch; a nice little micro-forest is growing in the fertile valley on top.
South side of giant tulip poplar.
South side of giant tulip poplar.
Here is a better picture of the "burn" although I'm not sure if that is what it really is.
Close up
Close up
So - it turns out I was not trying hard enough. I rode around the park a bit more and found some more giant trees. Tree hunting is so addictive! There are 15-17' CBH tuliptrees all over this forest. At one point a low-income housing project butts against the park... with a massive old tree 100' from somebody's sliding glass patio door. I found two exceptional, old tuliptrees which are much larger than these 3... they are absolutely epic in girth. I'll make a separate post for these next two curious old trees.

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