Branch, Cataloochee, GRSM
26, 2002 16:28 PDT
Branch Giant Gallery
Hello fellow ENTS,
Michael Davie and I explored much of the Jim Branch drainage in
the Cataloochee Valley of GRSM, NC. Kristine Johnson of the Park
Service and Molly Nicoli alerted us to the presence of hemlock
woolly adelgid so we went in for a pre-mortality survey. Within
minutes Jim Branch began to creep up our list of best hemlock
groves in the Smokies (world?). It was very open (as in
rhodo-free)and had large hardwood associates. Tuliptree was the
largest and tallest codominant reaching heights of nearly 170'.
Hemlock was very dense and we saw some of the highest basal area
groves we had ever seen. Most of the dense groves were
"young", around 250 years old, with older 400+
"matriarch" trees up to 13' in girth. We found a large
red spruce at no more than 3200 feet elevation that looked very
healthy and was a canopy dominant.
Below is a list of the trees we measured, including a potential
new world record hemlock height. I still can't believe we are
still finding records at the brink of the potential loss of the
species in the southern Appalachians. This tree, and one in
South Carolina (168.9'), are within a foot of each other and
should be climbed to determine the actual height with tape drop
and discover which tree is the tallest. Both trees are in groves
infested with adelgid.
Trees on an unnamed branch on the way up from Rough Fork. These
were second growth +/-50 yr old tuliptrees:
7'2" x 149.9'
6'1" x 150.6'
8'7" x 153.5'
Many more where these came from...
11'8" x 137.1'
13'2" x 147.2'
11'2" x 147.8'
10'4" x 148.8'
8'7" x 149.8'
11'2" x 156.5'
9'10" x 157.4'
11'1' x 158.7'
11'8" x 159.0'
12'11" x 169.5' "Jim's Giant" (I discovered a
bees nest at the base..) Two laser readings from vastly
different angles and slope positions were within a few inches;
169.9 and 169.1).
13'1" x 148.8'
10'9" x 156.9'
8'9" x 159.8'
10'7" x 168.9'
N. red oak
8'3" x 129.4'
10'5" x 127.3'
There is a lot more to measure, too...
23, 2003 18:16 PST
Today I explored up the west side of Jim Branch in Cataloochee,
main goal was to scout a route to the Jim Branch Giant, a
eastern hemlock that I intend to climb this coming weekend.
However, I was
seriously distracted by cove after cove of fine trees. Most of
the area I
covered (which is a small portion of what remains) seemed to be
the edge of acidic cove and rich cove forests. Although hemlock
throughout, rhododendron was sparse and rich cove associates
common or scattered among the hemlocks. Tuliptree, basswood,
Fraser magnolia, black and yellow birch, and mountain silverbell
(American beech were dead from BBD). I believe Jim Branch to be
one of the
most beautiful hemlock forests I have ever seen, and I have seen
A LOT of
hemlock! However, hemlock woolly adelgid is common and I believe
I saw some
adelgid induced decline in the highest cove I surveyed. Small
covered with adelgid masses and the canopy tres were beginning
to lose lower
limbs or had severe dieback in the lower canopy. I have been
climbing on Jim
Branch assisting the NPS with HWA control efforts and many of
the trees I
climbed were moderately infested.
I measured the Jim Branch Giant from five locations. Four of
around 164' with an average of 164.23'. The range of error
between the four
was .84'. Not bad! One outlier which I confirmed twice from the
location was 167.35'. Michael Davie measured this tree twice
different locations/angles and got 169.5' both times. Either his
measurements are high or mine are low (or we are both off!) We
soon... I figure the tree has 950-1050 cubic feet of wood. This
conservative as it has one of the most untapered stems I have
appears to remain 1.5' thick to at least 130'. I will take girth
measurements for volume calculations as well as a tape drop
height. I have a
photo of the entire tree that I took today that I can email to
would like it.
Anyway, among the gloom and doom of HWA the finds of the day
The biggest surprise for me was a new white basswood (Tilia
height record. Before today, no one has accurately measured a
over 140' tall. Today I found four! The tallest was 147' and
There is now evidence that this species may enter the elite 150'
would have thought that?
I also found four old-growth tuliptrees over 170'. All had
intact crowns and
massive upper branching.Jim Branch has one other over 170'
confirmed so far-
with many coves left to measure. I was hoping to break the ENTS
175' but fell shy by 1.54'. Another record today was a yellow
109.3' My previous record was around 100'.
On the way in I stopped to measure some white pines in a grove I
measured for 7 years. At last measurement the tallest tree was
157'. Now two
have surpassed 160' (sorry Dale) and there are probably more.
Here are today's figures:
Species Girth Height
White pine n/a 160.79'
White pine n/a 162.91'
Hemlock 10'1" 143.09'
Hemlock 8'2" 145.5'
Hemlock 9'3" 143.96'
Hemlock 8'11" 149.72'
Hemlock 8'11" 153.37'
Hemlock 11'8" 154.95'
Hemlock 10'10" 158.8'
Hemlock ~12'8" 164.23' (avg of 4 range of .84') Jim Branch
Tuliptree 9'8" 148.46'
Tuliptree 7'2" 156.24'
Tuliptree 9'8" 157.98'
Tuliptree 11'2" 172.83'
Tuliptree 12'4" 173.28' (avg of 2, range of .49')
Tuliptree 10'3" 173.33'
Tuliptree 14'3" 173.47' (avg of 3, range 1.87')
White basswood 5'5" 132.1' (basswoods over 130' are not
White basswood 6'3" 135.56'
White basswood 5'6" 140.52'
White basswood 5'7" 140.91'
White basswood 6' 142.3'
White basswood 5'8" 147.01' (all-time record!)
Cucumbertree 13'7" 123.5' (Georgeous, huge trunk but broken
Cucumbertree 10' 125.08'
Cucumbertree 5'10" 127.98'
Cucumbertree 11'7" 132.6'
Black birch 5'6" 110.4' (in the top 10 height-wise)
Yellow birch 6'10" 109.29' (new park [Eastern?] record)
Jim Branch wonders
26, 2003 10:58 PST
Lirodendron tulipifera is in a class by itself. As we see, other
hardwood species reach impressive girths, and in favorable
environments, a few species like sweet gum and sycamore may
challenge the tulip tree for height supremacy, but the tulips
win out when entire species range is taken into consideration.
In fact, the tulip doesn't have any serious competition that I
Southern Pennsylvania must have some impressive specimens. Will
Blozan mentioned a city park in Philadelphia where he saw
promising specimens. I can't remember the name of the park, but
we ought to find out and pay it a visit this year.
Also, south-central PA has lots of sycamores. There's one at
Mercersburg (sp?) that is supposed to be 31 feet around. I
couldn't find it few years ago when I passed through. If we knew
its exact location, John Knuerr and I could visit it on our way
down or back from the Smokies in April. We plan to go straight
from the Smokies to western PA.
Jim Branch wonders
26, 2003 12:06 PST
Jim Branch really has an impressive forest, there's an area of
remarkably free of rhododendron for the typical north-facing
in Cataloochee. The best kind of "shock and awe" when
you enter it. Those
basswoods sound incredible.
I hope my measurements weren't that far off, the last time I
laser was actually consistently undermeasuring by a bit, I
really need to
go ahead and get a new one. One thing I remember is that the
very obscured by rhodo, and Will had to be careful of a
I think it was, when he was standing at the base. He had to wave
above his head for me to see it. It's definitely worth the climb
for a tape
drop, luckily it's easily accessible (relative to most of the
Good luck on 170, even if it's not, it's a great tree.
Branch: Yellow Birch
23, 2005 16:33 PDT
Just a quick note on some nice trees I have located recently,
some of which
may be NC State Champions.
to full report)
Back in the Smokies, I spotted a yellow birch on Jim Branch that
quite tall even though it was an older tree with a flat crown.
yards away grew the current eastern height record, which I
thought this tree must be. But it was a different tree. I shot
up with the
laser from underneath and roughed it ~105'- then I realized my
was still in meters from an earlier plot with the Park Service!
upslope and confirmed a 116.7' top on a 6'10" trunk. Sorry
John and Bob but
you have some more searching to do!