Kalanu Prong, GSMNP, TN   Jess Riddle
  Mar 12, 2006 22:03 PST 


In the park's Greenbrier section, Kalanu Prong flows north off the
main divide of the Great Smoky Mountains. Despite the lack of a
maintained trail, the stream has for decades been recognized as one of
the premier big tree sites in the Smokies. That reputation comes from
the massive tuliptrees and other large hardwoods that thrive on the
flats and adjacent slopes along the creek's lower end. Even though
extensive farming occurred just below the creek's mouth, settlers and
timber companies never cleared or even highgraded the flats.
Consequently, a forest of large sugar maples, red maples, buckeyes,
silverbells, hemlocks, and tuliptrees remains on the rich, moist,
gentle slopes around 3100' elevation.

Recording of Kalanu Prong's large trees began at least as early as the
1950's. At that time, Arthur Stupka, the long time park naturalist,
located a national champion cucumbertree, an 18'6" cbh giant. As of
the late 1990's, that tree had fallen, but three tuliptrees over 20'
circumference remained on one small section of the creek. Among those
tuliptrees, the "Greenbrier Giant" vied for the title of largest tree
in the park. With the help of Kris Johnson and Tom Remaley from the
National Park Service, we took careful measurements of the tree with a
monocular. Even though the tree maintained a diameter of
approximately six feet for the first 61', one of the unnamed
tuliptrees in the same vicinity has an even larger trunk. The unnamed
tuliptree maintains a diameter of over 5.5' for 85' to amass a trunk
volume of 2520 cubic feet. The tree is likely one of the three
largest in the entire mountain range (the Sag Branch tuliptree is
larger and the "Mill Creek Monster" is probably very similar in size).

Kris and Tom also helped us model the largest hemlock seen in the
area. The tree grows immediately adjacent to one fork of Kalanu Prong
and at the edge of the rich cove forest. The 15'1" cbh x 152.9' tall
tree maintains a diameter of over 3.5' for the first 78'. The trunk
volume totals 1270 cubic feet. The Long Branch hemlock, which Will
Blozan climbed last year, is the only living hemlock with a confirmed
larger trunk; three trees, two in the Smokies and one in Highlands,
NC, are suspected to be larger, but they have not been measured yet.

Species Cbh Height
Birch, Black 11'6" NA
Buckeye, Yellow NA 130.8'
Buckeye, Yellow 13'6" 142.5'
Buckeye, Yellow 11'5" 142.6'
Hemlock, Eastern 15'1" 152.9'
Maple, Red 12'4" 128.3'
Maple, Sugar 12'5" NA
Pine, Table Mountain 4'0" 96.0'
Sourwood 3'7.5" 107.7'
Tuliptree 20'10" NA
Tuliptree 22'3" 157.1'
Tuliptree 22'10" 146.2' "Greenbrier Giant"

The black birch represents a new park diameter record. The table
mountain pine grows in the old fields along False Gap Prong, which
Kalanu Prong flows into, and is a Tennessee height record. The
sourwood grows in the old fields along Woolly Tops Branch, and is a
Tennessee height record.

Jess Riddle & Will Blozan