Lower Mouse Creek, Cataloochee District, NC, GRSM   Will Blozan
  Mar 07, 2005 18:21 PST 

I returned to lower Mouse Creek yesterday to measure some tuliptrees Jess
Riddle and I saw May 2003 but had a hard time getting good heights on since
the leaves were so thick. Visibility was excellent and the understory
delightfully open.

Mouse Creek drains into Big Creek, and terminates into a waterfall that is a
popular tourist destination. Above the falls is a very young (70 years)
second-growth forest composed almost entirely of tuliptree and white
basswood. Black locust was once common, but they are now virtually all dead.
In the flats by the stream very few other canopy species are present, with
scattered hemlock, yellow buckeye, black cherry, red maple, black and yellow
birch, cucumbertree, and red oak occurring sporadically. I was most
interested in the tuliptree growth, as we had identified at least one tree
that would exceed 170'. I measured other species as they occurred in order
to compute an initial Rucker index.

I was pleased to find three tuliptrees over 170', in fact, all were over
174' tall. Like one of the 170'+ tulips on Bettis Branch to the east, one of
these trees was growing out of the railroad bed, and cannot be more than 70
years old. I tripped over some old steel rails on the way upstream, and
logging roads and railways crisscrossed the slopes every 100 yards or so.
The place was almost entirely cut along the lower slopes by the stream, with
very few relic older trees. Tuliptrees 160' were common, and 150' trees the
norm. This is a grove to watch! At this point, every drainage surveyed so
far except one on the south side of Big Creek (and several tributaries of
them) have tuliptrees over 170'. All have trees exceeding 160'.

The find of the day was a northern red oak that is a new Smokies height
record. It, too, is 70 years old or so and has reached 151.4' and 10'11" in
girth. A tuliptree next to it towers to 174.9', with the other tuliptrees
surrounding it over 160' tall. The oak is still growing, and grew at least
10 inches last year. Not bad!

I won't list all the trees I measured, but will recap yesterday's trees and
the best from the trip last May 2003.

Tallest tulips

10'0"     X          174.1'
7'4"       X          174.4'
8'6"       X          174.9' On railroad bed. This is the tree we spotted
last trip and roughed to 172.1'.

These three trees were all within sight of each other.

Rucker Index

Tuliptree            174.9'
Bitternut            156.3'   5/24/2003
Red oak            151.4'
Hemlock           147.7'
White ash         143.0'
Y. buckeye        137.3'
W. basswood    135'
Red maple         127.6'
Cucumbertree    125.2'
Black locust      124'

RI=                   142.2

This initial Rucker Index can easily by raised to 145+ by finding some
taller representatives. Black locust should top 140' and cucumbertree 135'.
Basswood should hit 140' and white ash over 150'. Black birch will come
close to 110', and a 115' tree is not out of the question. I probably won't
go back anytime soon, but I know it's possible!


RE: Lower Mouse Creek, Cataloochee District, NC, GRSM   Robert Leverett
  Mar 08, 2005 05:35 PST 


   Congratulations! As always, the Smoky Mounatins are in their own
class. The growth rates are phenomenal and you've come with a whole new
growing environment for us to consider (in some way), i.e. old abandoned
logging railroads. Sheez, who would have thought? I've always admired
the tuliptree's unexcelled growing prowess, but an old railroad bed?



Lower Mouse Creek update   Will Blozan
  Apr 02, 2005 07:10 PST 

I found a few more trees to include (and delete) in the Rucker Index for
Lower Mouse Creek, Cataloochee District, GRSM, NC. As with the SC update,
some of these trees were calculated with the incorrect conversion factor.
Here is the correct listing:

Rucker Index:

Tuliptree            174.9'
Bitternut            156.3'
Red oak            151.4'
Hemlock           143.2'
White ash         143.0'
W. basswood    134.4'
Red maple         126.4'
Cucumbertree    132.9'
Black locust      139.2'
Sugar maple      127.2'

RI=                   142.9

Not bad for 70 year old second-growth!

Will Blozan