Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Moderators: edfrank, dbhguru

Jeroen Philippona
Posts: 117
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:52 am

Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Post by Jeroen Philippona » Fri May 18, 2012 8:37 am

In last April I visited France. I spent a week in the Morvan, an old, lower Mountain chain in Burgundy, some 150 miles southeast from Paris; for a great part the bedrock is granite with some slate, but especially in the northwestern part also limestone and marl can be found. Forests in the Morvan are a mixture of wood production plantations with Douglas firs and other exotic conifers as well as more native broadleaf forest with mainly European beech, mixed with sessile oak, pedunculate oak, Hornbeam and some European chestnut and Sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)other species. Some of these beechforests are of rather natural species composition and have been declared a forest reserve, but none have old growth character.

The last two days I visited the Forêt de Bercé, a famous forest about 100 miles to the southwest of Paris and 20 km south from the town of Le Mans. This forest of 5380 hectare (13.450 acres) is one of the forests planted with Sessile oak (Quercus petraea) for high quality timberproduction during the reign of King Louis XIV (1643 - 1715) on command of his Minister Colbert.
The forest lies in an area with plateaus with an altitude of around 130 - 160 m above sea level but dissected by small river valleys going down to 100 m asl. The soil at the plateaus is deep sandy-loam to loam-clay brown earths, with parent material of flint clay formed in the Turonian. Soil is relatively acidic and relatively poor, but still of a good class of fertility (F.Lebourgeois et al. 2004). In the valleys soils are somewhat richer.
Still some parts with the original oaks, dating from 1680 - 1720, exist. Famous is the small reserve: "Futaie des Clos" of 8 hectare (20 acres) with still over 400 oaks planted in that period and located at a plateau.
The oaks should have been felled between 1903 and 1933, but in 1895 this area was declared a special forest reserve because of the special quality of its oaks; in 1930 this was declared to be one of the "Artistic reserves" for its special beauty.
In the publications about this forest always the very great hights of the oaks were mentioned. In 2006 the forester Yves Gouchet measured many of the oaks in the "Futaie des Clos" as well as in some other parts of the forest, probably with a Vertex hypsometer,a tangent style of instrument. He measured several oaks of over 43 meters (141 ft), among wich two of 45 m (147.6 ft), one of 47 m (154.2 ft) and one of 50 m (164 ft). In a later publication after remeasuring this was mentioned as 49.5 m (162.4 ft).
Before I went to France I tried to get in contact with mr. Gouchet, but failed. Backwards this was because mr. Gouchet retired as a forestor in January 2012. When I was back in Holland I got e-mail contact with mr. Gouchet. He sended me a mail of other forestors, who had measured another oak of 49.0 m (160.76 ft) in the "Futaie des Clos". They also wrote that LIDAR surveys of the forest will be held soon. They wanted to have exact GPS positions of several of the oaks.

In a publication in 2004 by François Lebourgeois c.s.: Climate-tree-growth relationships of Quercus petraea Mill. stand in the Forest of Bercé ("Futaie des Clos", Sarthe, France) the medium height of 81 oaks in the "Futaie des Clos" was given as 45.2 m (148.3 ft). The measuring method alas was not given but very probable was also with a Vertex Hypsometer, the most common used hightmeasurement instrument used by European forest researchers and forestors between 1995 and 2010.
Quercus-petraea-F.Bercé_Lebourgeois_2004_.pdf
(651.15 KiB) Downloaded 136 times
So at the 28th of April in the beginning of a rainy evening I visited the first location in the forest: here the second tallest oak was reported by mr. Gouchet, called the "Chêne Emery", wich should be easy to find. On the way to it at a plateau stood only light and relatively low oak forest (hight around 20 - 22 m (70 ft); but then a small road turned into a small valley descending towards the east. Here I saw much taller forest of sessile oak and beech. A first laser shot gave 38 m (125 ft), so much better). Then I saw down in the valley towards the "Fontaine de la Coudre" a nice forest of very tall and rather big oaks as well as beeches.
The "Chêne Emery" is marked by a signpost and is surrounded by a fence. I made many measurements with my Nikon Forestry 550 laser ranger (for Robert Leverett: without the 3-point tangent method). It was good to be measured, while it is near to he small road were can be got good sights of the tallest tops from several points. After many measurements I concluded it to be around 47.4 meters - 155.5 ft. This was a new lasermeasured record for Quercus in Europe! The cbh was 341 cm - 11.19 ft. Several other oaks in this valley near the "Fontaine de la Coudre" were 43 tot 44 m (141 - 144.4 ft) tall with cbh of 370 - 400 cm (12 - 13.1 ft). The tallest European beech here I measured as 41.4 m (136 ft). Beeches were younger than the oaks and planted to get long clean oak trunks. Indeed the trunk of the Emery Oak is 29 m (95 ft) clean till the first branches.
The "Chêne Emery" with signpost and fence. The tree just at left and in front of it is a beech of 40 m tall.
The "Chêne Emery" with signpost and fence. The tree just at left and in front of it is a beech of 40 m tall.
Chêne-Emery-996.jpg
The "Chêne Emery" at the signpost is given a total woodvolume of 21.5 cubic m (759 cubic feet) and a trunkvolume of 16.5 m3 (582.7 ft3)
The "Chêne Emery" at the signpost is given a total woodvolume of 21.5 cubic m (759 cubic feet) and a trunkvolume of 16.5 m3 (582.7 ft3)
At the signpost the hight of this oak is given as 47.75 m (156.66 ft) so not much different from my measurement. Its age is given as around 265 years in 2007, so planted around 1742: this part of the forest is somewhat younger than the "Futaie des Clos".
Oak of 44 m (144.4 ft) with cbh of 394 cm (12.9 ft) just behind the Chene Emery
Oak of 44 m (144.4 ft) with cbh of 394 cm (12.9 ft) just behind the Chene Emery
Eik394cm-Coudre998.jpg
At April the 29th I visited two other parts of the forest, the above mentioned "Futaie des Clos" and another valley, called the "Sources de l'Hermietiëre". Here the oak of 49.5 or 50 m was reported. Indeed this was a very beautiful forested valley with a small stream flowing from west to northeast. So this was a very sheltered location. At once I saw this forest was very promising: the first oaks and beeches I measured were around 42 m (138 ft) tall. As I walked along the stream I measured an oak of 43.3 m (142 ft) with cbh of 374 cm (12.27 ft).
The forest at the Sources de l'Hermitiëre with oak of 43.3 m (142 ft) in the centre
The forest at the Sources de l'Hermitiëre with oak of 43.3 m (142 ft) in the centre
eik43,3l'Hermitiere1039.jpg
eik43,3l'Hermitiere1040.jpg
I measured several more oaks up to 44 m (144.36 ft). A few hundred meters to the west I found a taller oak. It was difficult to find the highest tops, while it was already well in leaf and surrounded by other oaks and beeches. In the end I concluded it to be 46.0 m (150.9 ft) tall, with cbh of 366 cm (12 ft).
The impressive oak of 46 m (150.9 ft) with the tallest oak of 48.4 m (158.8 ft) to the right.
The impressive oak of 46 m (150.9 ft) with the tallest oak of 48.4 m (158.8 ft) to the right.
Oak of 46 m (150.9 ft), cbh 366 cm (12 ft)
Oak of 46 m (150.9 ft), cbh 366 cm (12 ft)
The forest canopy with at left the oaks of 46 and 48.4 m. The trees without leaves are European beeches, the others all sessile oaks.
The forest canopy with at left the oaks of 46 and 48.4 m. The trees without leaves are European beeches, the others all sessile oaks.
The thinner oak beside it (cbh 313 cm (10.27 ft) till then I had not given much attention, but when I measured the tallest tops of it, it was found to be taller even! The highest tops I was able to measure gave me consequent 48.4 m (158.79 ft), as far as I know a new record height for any oak lasermeasured in Europe!
The tallest oak I measured in the Forêt de Bercé of 48.4 m (158.8 ft) is the tree with lightgreen leaves at the middle left; just to the right with leaves farther open is the oak of 46 m; to the right is a beech of 42 m tall still without leaves
The tallest oak I measured in the Forêt de Bercé of 48.4 m (158.8 ft) is the tree with lightgreen leaves at the middle left; just to the right with leaves farther open is the oak of 46 m; to the right is a beech of 42 m tall still without leaves
This is 4.8 m (15.75 ft) taller than the tallest lasermeasured common oak (Quercus robur) in the more natural forest of Bialowieza in Poland and 3.8 m (12.47 ft) taller than the former tallest Quercus petraea measured by Kouta Räsänen in Kelheim Forest, Germany.

If we disregard the very exotic Eucalypts in Portugal and Spain this is even the second tall broadleaf tree in Europe measured by laser or climbing with direct tape drop as far as we are aware of! Only one London plane (Platanus x hispanica) of 48.56 m (159.3 ft) measured by climbing with direct tape drop, is a bit taller. But to now this fir sure some of the tallest of these oaks should be climbed!
In the USA only one specimen of Cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda) in Congaree was measured to be taller, but of the white oak group no tree has been measured as tall before.
The tallest beech I measured was 44.6 m (146.3 ft), not a new record but still quite good.

In the "Futaie des Clos" I found oaks up to 44 m (144.3 ft); I spend only 1½ hour here, probably some of the oaks in this part will be taller, but I doubt if the tree reported to be 49.0 m in this part in reality is that tall. Also he mean hight of 45.2 (148.3 ft) reported in the publication I cannot confirm. I think the mean hight of the old oaks (I measured cbh of up to 434 cm / 14.24 ft) will be between 40 and 43 m (130 and 140 ft).
Typical vieuw in the "Futaie des Clos" with old sessile oaks, younger beech and some undergrowth of Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
Typical vieuw in the "Futaie des Clos" with old sessile oaks, younger beech and some undergrowth of Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
One of the tallest oaks I measured in the "Futaie des Clos": 44 m (144.4 ft), cbh 406 cm (13.32 ft)
One of the tallest oaks I measured in the "Futaie des Clos": 44 m (144.4 ft), cbh 406 cm (13.32 ft)
The exceptional hight of the oaks in the Forest of Bercé can be explained by very good, deep soil, optimal for Quercus petraea, good water supply, mild climate with mild winters, little snow and long growing season, but also by the very close planting of the oaks with high competition to get very long trunks. Very much of the growing energy went in the heightgrowth: the oaks show a 1 mm medium diameter-growth increment each year from 1810 to the present, rather slow.

Although my measurements are far from complete and can be done better with more time, better equipment and measuring before the trees come in leaf, it looks like that the tallest oaks cannot be found in the "Futaie des Clos", wich is on a plateau, although there the oldest oaks in the forest can be found. The two extra sheltered valleys at the Source de l'Hermitiëre as well as the "Fontaine de la Coudre" seem to have the best growing conditions to grow the tallest oaks.
The oak recently measured of 49 m in the Futaie des Clos should be measured also with laser or better still by climbing with tape drop. Also I am not sure if the oak measured by Yves Gouchet as 49.5 or 50 m is the same as the one I measured as 48.4 m. We have to go back there in comany with the French researchers, with good equipment and a few climbers!

Jeroen Philippona
Last edited by Jeroen Philippona on Sat May 19, 2012 3:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
ElijahW
Posts: 848
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:04 pm

Re: Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Post by ElijahW » Fri May 18, 2012 7:34 pm

Jeroen,

Very nice report. In the area where I live (central NY State), the tallest oaks tend to be northern reds (Quercus rubra). From the white oak family, white oak (Quercus alba), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), and bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) are quite common, but rarely exceed 100 ft. in height. Your writing and pictures make me want to jet over there and take a look for myself, but, alas, it will have to wait. Thank you for sharing.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

User avatar
Will Blozan
Posts: 1153
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 7:13 pm

Re: Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Post by Will Blozan » Sat May 19, 2012 8:04 am

Jereon,

A most excellent, detailed, and inspiring post! It is exciting to be getting such numbers from oaks (with an interesting history as well) in the white oak sub-genus. Will temperate Quercus reach 50 m? The race is on!

Excellent photos as well.

Thanks again!

Will

User avatar
KoutaR
Posts: 667
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:41 am

Re: Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Post by KoutaR » Sat May 19, 2012 1:37 pm

Jeroen Philippona wrote:This is even the second tall native broadleaf tree in Europe measured by laser or climbing with direct tape drop as far as we are aware of!
I think it is the tallest. You probably mean the tallest London plane (Platanus x hispanica) is taller. But it is a hybrid between a European and an American species -> not native European!

Kouta

Jeroen Philippona
Posts: 117
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:52 am

Re: Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Post by Jeroen Philippona » Sat May 19, 2012 3:30 pm

Kouta,

Indeed you are right that the hybrid plane tree is not a native tree. The oriëntal plane (Platanus orientalis) is native but only in the southeast of Europe (Greece and Turkey). I changed my text above a bit.

Jeroen

User avatar
Chris
Posts: 289
Joined: Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:52 pm

Re: Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Post by Chris » Sat May 19, 2012 5:48 pm

Great post and what a beautiful forest!

User avatar
KoutaR
Posts: 667
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:41 am

Re: Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Post by KoutaR » Sun May 20, 2012 4:41 am

Jeroen Philippona wrote:The oriëntal plane (Platanus orientalis) is native but only in the southeast of Europe (Greece and Turkey).
And probably in some other countries of southern Balkan Peninsula.

Kouta

Jeroen Philippona
Posts: 117
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:52 am

Re: Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Post by Jeroen Philippona » Sun May 20, 2012 6:48 am

Kouta,

About the native distribution of Platanus orientalis in southern Europe I could not find much good information till now, also no good distribution maps. For example Euforgen doesn't publish an online distribution map of this species. Some information gives: http://www.sisef.it/iforest/contents/?id=ifor0580-004

Jeroen

User avatar
edfrank
Posts: 4217
Joined: Sun Mar 07, 2010 5:46 pm

Re: Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Post by edfrank » Sun May 20, 2012 8:13 am

Jeroen,

Another very impressive report. Thank you. I always enjoy reading your posts.

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

User avatar
Larry Tucei
Posts: 2017
Joined: Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:44 am

Re: Tall oaks in the "Forêt de Bercé near Le Mans

Post by Larry Tucei » Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:30 pm

Jeroen, Wow those are some really tall Oaks! Somehow I missed this post back in May. Doug and Kouta thanks for the link to Jeroen's posting. Excellent post with really good photos. There are only a few places in the U.S. that can match those Oak heights! Larry

Post Reply

Return to “France”