Vicksburg National Military Park, MS

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Jess Riddle
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Vicksburg National Military Park, MS

Post by Jess Riddle » Mon Dec 28, 2015 3:29 pm

NTS,

12/13/2014
A high bluff of loess hills lines the eastern side of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. In northern Mississippi, the river flows far from that high ground, up to 60 miles, making reliable dry landings for river going vessels a dubious prospect. Not surprisingly, cities grew up at either end of the arc of hills where the river swings up against the bluff, Memphis and Vicksburg. The 200’ high bluffs overlooking the river also provided strategic military value, so the Battle of Vicksburg played a key role in controlling the river during the American Civil War. Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates that battle and preserves the site. While the park maintains large areas in open condition to give visitors a better impression of battlefield conditions, hundreds of acres remain as mature forest, some of the only publicly accessibly forest along the bluffs in northern Mississippi.

After seeing spectacular forests growing out of loess deposits at Crowley’s Ridge in Arkansas and Meeman-Shelby state park in Tennessee (http://www.nativetreesociety.org/fieldt ... meeman.htm), I had I hopes for finding large and tall trees at the park. Partial LiDAR coverage reinforced that hope by showing a patchy high canopy with a few hits over 150’. When I arrived it took a little while to adjust to the park being not only an outdoor museum, which I had expected, but also a sort of shrine with busts, placards, obelisks, and other monuments dotting every roadway and the borders of every open field. The open areas reminded me of a large cemetery in New York designed in the 1850’s.
Typical patchy canopy of Vicksburg National Military Park with obelisk on far ridge
Typical patchy canopy of Vicksburg National Military Park with obelisk on far ridge
Behind the monuments, the forest was rich and productive, but also some of the saddest forest I have seen. A Civil War soldier probably would not recognize the forests recognize due to the ubiquitous invasive species. The understory shows a gradient from native to exotic, but Chinese privet is the most prominent and widespread. Carolina cherry laurel, another small evergreen tree, grows thick along the roadsides and on some ridges. The species is native to the area, but seems likely to have spread from planting and become much more abundant over the past 100 years. Finally, on lower slopes native rivercane completes the understory evergreen trifecta. During winter, the most conspicuous ground cover is another evergreen invader, Asian net-veined holly fern. The overstory has fared better with occasional patches of paper mulberry the primary exotic. Tuliptree dominates the patchy canopy in the narrow ravines and steep slopes and associates with sycamore, sweetgum, and occasional pecans. Water oak forms the canopy on some of the sheltered lower ridges and gentler slopes, and box-elder ranges from midstory to overstory depending on associates.
Typical productive lower slope forest with privet understory.  The tardily deciduous trees are all water oaks.
Typical productive lower slope forest with privet understory. The tardily deciduous trees are all water oaks.
Dense Chinese privet understory
Dense Chinese privet understory
The evergreen understory and generally depressing condition of the forest made me less than eager to measure. I hurried around to four of the highest LiDAR hits then drove up to Delta National Forest for the afternoon.
Vicksburg_measurements.JPG
Vicksburg_measurements.JPG (21.01 KiB) Viewed 1198 times
In addition to the trees listed above, I saw the two highest LiDAR hits. Both were broad crown tuliptrees growing on steep slopes. Based on shooting straight up into one of them, I think the LiDAR height reflected part of the crown above an area lower on the slope, but both trees are likely still over 140’ tall. The sycamore is a new state height record, and the tuliptree falls only two feet short of the state mark. However, the roughleaf dogwood may be the most significant find. The tree grows in a small alluvial flat surrounded by six foot tall horsetail’s growing thick as hair. NTS has little data on the species, but this individual dwarfs all those I’ve seen growing along the Missouri River, where the species is abundant, or in Arkansas.
1’8” cbh x 41.8’ tall roughleaf dogwood.  Note yellow diameter tape on trunk at 4.5’
1’8” cbh x 41.8’ tall roughleaf dogwood. Note yellow diameter tape on trunk at 4.5’
Lots of trees remain to be measured in the park. I only explored lower part of the park, and that are not even thoroughly. In particular, I regret not taking the time to measure a couple of large and fairly old cottonwoods I saw along the road in part of the park without LiDAR coverage. The trees in the cemetery at the foot of the bluff are also worth checking out. 10’ circumference southern magnolias, and 7 or 8’ eastern red cedars dot most of the cemetery along with a few large ginkgos and two larger sweetgums. If anyone visits, they may also want to save some time for the impressive black willow stands that grow on the land formed as the Mississippi has meandered away from the bluff.
Cemetery with Mississippi River floodplain in background
Cemetery with Mississippi River floodplain in background
Jess

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dbhguru
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Re: Vicksburg National Military Park, MS

Post by dbhguru » Mon Dec 28, 2015 8:18 pm

Jess,

What is the best you and Don Bragg did for tuliptree in Arkansas? I can't remember. Off the top of my head, we've broken 150 feet on tulips in: MS, AL, GA, SC, NC, TN, VA, WV, KY, OH, IN, MD, PA, DE, NJ, NY, and CT.

Not sure about Michigan. I expect we can break 150 somewhere in Illinois and Arkansas, if you haven't already. Missouri? We could wind up with as many as 20 states with 150-foot tulips. I think white pine will fall short of 20 states, but not by many. One heck of a competition.

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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DonCBragg
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Re: Vicksburg National Military Park, MS

Post by DonCBragg » Mon Jan 18, 2016 3:32 pm

Bob...I have reported almost nothing in terms of tuliptree in Arkansas, as it is not particularly common in most of the state. I would expect to find the best examples along a ridge in the northeastern part of the state (Crowley's Ridge).

Don Bragg

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Vicksburg National Military Park, MS

Post by Larry Tucei » Tue Jan 19, 2016 12:54 pm

Jess- Nice report on the Military Park. I should take the time to go up and finish where you left off. From your description there is much more to Document here. Thanks for taking time to measure this area. Larry
Last edited by Larry Tucei on Tue Jan 19, 2016 9:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Vicksburg National Military Park, MS

Post by Jess Riddle » Tue Jan 19, 2016 7:21 pm

Bob,

Don's right, tuliptree does quite well on Crowley's Ridge. I've seen multiple stands with tuliptrees over 150'. I'll get to those write-ups eventually.

Larry, definitely a lot left to explore in Vicksburg.

Jess

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