The Ash Search Has Begun

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dbhguru
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The Ash Search Has Begun

Post by dbhguru » Mon Sep 06, 2010 7:27 am

ENTS,

As those of you who endure my frequent posts on white pine searches know, I am obsessed with finding and measuring the trees of a species that reach some dimensional threshold that I, or someone else, has arbitrarily established. With me, white pines are a primary focus - the ones either over 12 feet in girth, 150 feet in height, or 500 feet of trunk volume. Well folks, the search is not limited to white pines. Another species that doesn't escape my exercised eye is the white ash. In Massachusetts, Fraxinus americana is our tallest hardwood species. Nothing, not even the tuliptree, can compete with it in the Baystate, and the center of its development lies in the Berkshires and Taconics of western Massachusetts. I have no idea why this is the case, but until we find in other areas trees that match the numbers coming out of the river corridors in the Berkshire country, the center of height development is here.

On Saturday, I kicked off the hunt to update the inventory of tall white ash trees in Massachusetts. The threshold height is 130 feet and there is no place in Massachusetts that we've found where so many trees meeting this threshold can be found than MTSF. So, on Saturday, Monica, Glen Ayers, his lady friend Patrice , and I headed to two sites on Clark Mountain that have been big producers in the past. They are Indian Flats and Ash Flats. These sites are on the opposite side of the Cold River to Route #2, with its steady flow of tuned-out travelers. Once across the Cold, you have it all to yourselves.

After rock hopping across the Cold with less balance than once possessed in my case, we scrambled up a steep ravine and onto Indian Flats. The Flats covers only about an acre, maybe an acre and a half, but what it lacks in area, it makes up in quality. Here is an image of a splendid slender white ash that measures 7.6 feet around, but an eye-popping 140.3 feet in height.
IndianFlatsTreeHugging1S.jpg
A nearby tree was the real target of my search - the Indian Flats Ash. It measures a more substantial 8.6 feet in girth and reaches to 142.5 feet in height. Here is a shot looking up the trunk. The sun created glare, so the shot isn't as clear as I'd hoped, but I think it conveys the idea.
IndianFlatsAsh1S.jpg
Here is a close up of the Indian Flats Ash.
IndianFlatsWhiteAsf2S.jpg
The white snakeroot in this rich woods area is extraordinary. Here is an image of the snakeroot. A number of years ago, a botanist friend and I did a plant inventory in Indian Flats. The species count impressed my expert friend. It is a rich woods site.
IndianFlatsWhiteSnakeroot1S.jpg
The dense canopy made further measuring in the Indian Flats area unproductive, so we moved on toward Ash Flats. The terrain is rough and there is little hint of what lies beyond Indian Flats about a half mile up river. Monica had been wanting to see Ash Flats, so that is where we headed. I saw a few fairly tall northern red oaks along the way, but nothing extraordinary. The canopy generally varies from 85 to 105 feet -- nothing to get excited about. And then something happens. Wow! The canopy of Ash Flats is even more impressive than in Indian Flats. Many of the ash trees don't branch for 70 to 80 feet. Remember, this is Massachusetts -- not the Smokies. Here is a shot looking aloft into the crowns of 130+ feet white ash trees.
AshFlats1Small.jpg
I wasn't able to verify any heights of the ashes in Ash Flats through the dense hardwood canopy, which ranges from 120 to 140 feet based on past measurements. I'll return when the leaves have fallen. Here is a shot looking into soaring trunks followed by an image of the Ash Flats Ash. I am reasonably sure it is over 140. It has been in the past. All these trees are between 115- and 140 years in age.
AshFlats2Small.jpg
AshFlatsAsh1S.jpg
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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Beth
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Re: The Ash Search Has Begun

Post by Beth » Mon Sep 06, 2010 8:31 am

Bob, Lovely ash trees and very impressive in size.
Trees are the Answer

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dbhguru
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Re: The Ash Search Has Begun

Post by dbhguru » Mon Sep 06, 2010 9:32 am

Beth,

Ice Glen has larger ones and there are beauties in the upper Housatonic River Valley. I hope to find and document the best of the species across its range in southern New England while we still have healthy trees. I fear that the news is all bad and I'd like there to be a reliable record of what once grew here.

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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James Parton
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Re: The Ash Search Has Begun

Post by James Parton » Mon Sep 06, 2010 9:46 am

Bob,

I never tire of your posts on MTSF. Together with Cook Forest in Pennsylvania they are my most wanted to visit places in the Northeast. I would also like to visit what is left of the Cathedral Pines in Connecticut.

James
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dbhguru
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Re: The Ash Search Has Begun

Post by dbhguru » Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:20 am

James,

Rather than the remnants of the Cathedral Pines, a better choice would be the Bryant Woods in Cummington, MA. They are extraordinary. Then there is Ice Glen, another exceptional place. So, if you are able to get up this way, you know that you'll get a personal tour. There are hidden pockets yet to be found in all these northeastern states, but it is almost pure luck when a new spot pops up. Still, there is hope. The central Berkshires naturally grow large pines. When the trees are left to grow for 100 or more years, the possibilities sky rocket. Monica and I are going to head out to Hawley State Forest in an hour. Maybe I'll have a new discovery to report on by day's end.

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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James Parton
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Re: The Ash Search Has Begun

Post by James Parton » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:03 pm

Bob,

Good luck. I am heading out to look for a reported " record " white pine that I have heard people talk about at work. It is up on Wash Creek in North Mills River or so I can glean from what little they can tell me. They say it s huge and has a sign on it. I can find nothing about it on the Internet.

Wish me luck. I'll need it.

James
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George Fieo
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Re: The Ash Search Has Begun

Post by George Fieo » Wed Sep 11, 2013 9:20 pm

Bob,

Just curious. How many confirmed 140' white ash did you find. I may have found another site while scouting last month with four white ash to reach 140' in height. One for sure, the others will be close. I did straight up laser shots. I'll confirm after leaf drop.

George

Joe

Re: The Ash Search Has Begun

Post by Joe » Thu Sep 12, 2013 6:49 am

Bob said, " Nothing, not even the tuliptree, can compete with it in the Baystate, and the center of its development lies in the Berkshires and Taconics of western Massachusetts. I have no idea why this is the case...."

I think it's entirely due to much richer soils in the Berkshires- what with a valley bottom of limestone... and the rock of the Taconic Range, called The Taconic Formation, which originated from island volcanic eruptions in the late Pre-Cambrium. The "Berkshire Uplands" on the east side of the Housatonic Valley is a mix of many rock types contributing to the rich soils. Also, rainfall is heavier in the Berkshires than the rest of the state. The CT Valley (an ancient rift valley) is underlain by that red sandstone you see everywhere in road cuts- resulting in fairly fertile soil for agriculture but it tends to be drier than soils in the Berkshires-- east of the CT Valley, the bedrock is mostly variations of granite and the soil tends to be infertile gravel and sand- with many glacial outwatch plains, good for pine- but few of the pine are old enough to know what the height possibilites are.
Joe

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Re: The Ash Search Has Begun

Post by dbhguru » Thu Sep 12, 2013 7:22 am

George,

My first measurements of the 140-foot ashes was through crown cross-triangulation and the tangent method. I had about 7 or 8 measured that way, all on Clark Ridge in MTSF. With the laser rangefinder, I tried to confirm all the initial 140s, but couldn't. So, the final count became a little muddled. However, I'm confident of 15 and fairly likely, there are 20, with the absolute tallest at 152.5 feet in Trout Brook, in MTAF. John Eichholz found a second 150-footer in a place we call Ash Flats. However, on a return trip, he couldn't confirm the second 150. So, to be conservative, we stay at one. The third tallest is the Ash Queen on Clark Ridge at 147.0 feet.

The 140s are located in 7 locations, or ash concentrations. All but one of the trees are in MTSF. The single outsider is in Ice Glen, which is in Stockbridge, MA. There are at least four other locations with 130-foot ash trees, and I expect a few more.

East of the Connecticut River, the white ash likely reaches a maximum of 125 feet, and that is west of Worcester. I think Joe's description of the geology of Massachusetts is spot on, and the complexity of western mass's geology seems to reveal itself through tree heights. We could develop maps of maximum heights for around a dozen species profiled across the state and correlate to bed rock and moisture. Unfortunately, we can't do that now because the only show in town that can do the job right is NTS, and we're a little short-handed.

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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JHarkness
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Re: The Ash Search Has Begun

Post by JHarkness » Sat Jun 23, 2018 10:15 am

Bob,

Apologies for reopening an old thread, but I'm curious about these trees. Has anyone been to visit them since EAB arrived at MTSF, are they still alive/what is the extent of the damage? Are there plans to treat any survivors? I highly advise that if the damage has not been evaluated yet it should be soon, I regret not doing a damage survey several years ago in my forest, I didn't even know about our tall white ashes until after the EAB damage had killed most of them, in fact that's what brought them to my attention, the fact that some of them had yet to be hit by it. But maybe it's not all bad, many of the fallen trees have landed in sites in need of decaying wood, a fair number of the largest and oldest trees are still alive, and thriving in fact, and new white ashes are now growing on the sites that were hit hardest, it's actually a safe assumption that we have more total white ashes currently than we did before EAB. The persistence of the species continues to amaze me, remember that post I made a while ago with the photo of the "dead giant" white ash? Well, since then it has sprouted new growth from it's upper trunk, and it's highest branch has seemingly come back to life with blueish-green compound leaves, and it has even produced seeds!

A personal project of mine now is to locate, measure and document all of the mature live white ashes on my property as well as on nearby public land, there still are a lot of live trees around and I feel now's the time to document them and admire their natural beauty. In a site on my property that had been devastated by EAB, I found one "small" white ash, only 5' 0" in circumference, that was perfectly healthy and an astounding 127.0' tall, at least compared to the surrounding trees, I also was able to see the crown of an absolutely massive white ash with multiple leaders on the opposite ridge, and it was also perfectly healthy, I'd say it was at least 135' tall, maybe even more.

It would be a really great thing to do if we could all devote some amount of time and energy to measuring and documenting these trees, this could allow us to compile a list of the species height and where it reaches certain thresholds, perhaps a map showing locations that have trees in the 130', 140' and 150' ranges. I feel it would also be important to document the species typical lifespan, and perhaps assign an upper limit. We have the resources, we have the people and we still have the trees, in another decade or two, the trees could be gone for all we know and the public might assume that short, shrubby ashes with thin crowns are 'normal'.

Myself and a friend of mine have begun a project to film white ash, green ash and black ash across New York and New England to include in an educational documentary on the species.
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

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