From the website:


From Bob Leverett, "DBH Guru"

This is the first in a series of our year end Eastern Native Tree Society big tree-tall tree reports. This first one is for the state of Massachusetts. The objective is for other ENTS members to participate with Will Blozan and myself in establishing accurate baseline measurements for comparison purposes within a state, geographical region, or full range of an eastern tree species. The following table presents what I believe to be the champions of height for a number of species. Girths for the trees are also included. I am concentrating on height since that dimension tends to mirror growing conditions more than diameter. That is why the forestry profession constructs site index using tree height instead of diameter. Some of you won't be surprised to hear me state that the heights in the chart below are very accurate. Virtually all measurements will be within +/- 2.0 feet of actual tree height and some are within +/- 1.0 foot. The white pine has been measured to +/- 2 inches by virtue of the fact that the tree was actually climbed by Will Blozan on Nov 8, 1998. However, his and my laser-clinometer derived height was within 3 inches of the top to ground measurement. Some of the tree heights are quite exceptional for the species either in Massachusetts, Massachusetts northward, all New England, or in the case of three species, the entire Northeast. I readily acknowledge that I can't know if the trees listed below actually earn the status that I attribute to them. Thus, I say potential status. However, after presenting the list, I will give reasons that support the potential statuses I've assigned.


(status *)

Location Height

in feet


in feet

Potential Tall Tree Status

(tallest of its species in)

White Pine Mohawk Trail SF 158.6 9.9 New England
White Ash * Mohawk Trail SF 144.8 9.2 Northeast
American Beech * Mohawk Trail SF 137.7 8.1 Northeast
Sugar Maple Mohawk Trail SF 136.2 11.4 New England
Eastern Hemlock Ice Glen 132.3 10.2 New England
Red Spruce Mt Greylock 127.2 6.5 New England
Tulip Poplar Northampton 122.1 11.3 Massachusetts
Bigtooth Aspen Monroe SF 121.5 5.9 Northeast
N. Red Oak Mohawk Trail SF 119.0 8.8 Massachusetts
Bitternut Hickory Mohawk Trail SF 118.2 7.1 Massachusetts
Red Pine Mt Tom 115.5 5.4 Northeast
American Sycamore Old Deerfield 115.3 21.0 Massachusetts
Red Maple * Mohawk Trail SF 113.6 7.3 New England
Black Cherry Monroe SF 113.3 7.4 Massachusetts
American Basswood * Mohawk Trail SF 111.3 5.5 Massachusetts
Black Birch * Mohawk Trail SF 102.4 7.1 Mohawk Tr. SF
Hop Hornbeam * Mohawk Trail SF 76.2 4.0 Massachusetts
Striped Maple Monroe SF 59.1 2.8 Massachusetts

Comments on Status:

White Pine: In pre-colonial times White pines in the over 150 ft class were probably not that uncommon in the river valleys of New England. Tall pines were recorded in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and parts of the central and southern Appalachians. On occasion White pines grew much taller. There is no question that the species exceeded 230 feet in a few cases, with pines reported at 230, 247, 262, and 264 feet. Considering what we see today, these numbers seem impossible. Today there is only a handful of places where the combination of growing conditions and tree age favor pines that can get into the 150 foot and above class. Most places are in the southern Appalachians where we have measured White pines to 207 feet. The Cathedral Pines of Cornwall, CT were the flagship stand of New England. The CathedralPines had quite a few trees in the 150 foot class and one was measured to 172 feet. Most of the pines blew down in July 1989. The William Cullen Bryant estate has a fine stand of White pines, but the crowns are too exposed and they don't maintain their heights. The Mohawk Trail SF White pines may hold the record in New England. I have yet a few places to look, but most of the trees I've been sent to confirm were mis-measured. I'd say the Jake Swamp tree has a 50-50 chance of earning the title of tallest White pine in New England.

The tallest accurately measured White pine in the Northeast is the Longfellow Pine in Cook Forest State Park. It is 179.2 feet tall as measured by Jack Sobon and Bob Van Pelt in June 1997. Jack used a transit and Bob used a laser device. Their height measurements differed by a mere 1.25 inches.

White Ash: There is a very good chance that this tree earns its potential status. It is a remarkable tree and it grows in a remarkable stand. This tree is taller than most tall White pines in New England. That says it all. Incidentally, this tree has been measured repeatedly and the 144.8 figure is, if anything, on the conservative side. The team of Rick Van De Poll, Tom Wessels (Professors at Antioch Graduate School), and Bob Leverett got highly compatible results. The tree grows at about 1,100 feet altitude on the north side of Clark Ridge.

American Beech: The comments applicable to the White ash apply equally to this species. The tree grows not far from the ash. The location grows super tall trees. All the trees that are asterisked in the above list grow in the area.

Not shown in the list is a White pine close to the river that reaches 158.3 feet (also climbed by Will Blozan) and a Sugar maple near the American beech and ash that tops 126 feet. More than one Hop hornbeam in the general area exceeds 70 feet.

Sugar Maple: The potential status of this species is probably earned and actually may be understated. In-forest Sugar maples in southern New England can easily reach 100 feet, but trees above 115 are rare. Those above 120 are very rare. This tree benefits from water, rich soil, protection, etc. The tree grows on the east side of Todd Mountain which is part of the Todd-Clark ridge complex.

Eastern Hemlock: I have measured this species over most of New England, elsewhere in the Northeast, and in the central and southern Appalachians. Hemlocks in southern New England can easily surpass 100 feet. Above 115, they quickly sort themselves out. Even on the most favorable sites, they seem to hit a wall at 120 to 125 feet. The Ice Glen tree is an exception. It is ideally located. In parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, on occasion the Hemlock can surpass 140 feet in height. In a few spots in the southern Appalachians, the species can surpass 160. Northward into Vermont and New Hampshire the species tops out at 95 to about 105 feet. Rarely a little taller.

Red Spruce: This Greylock tree is exceptional. I've measured Red spruce in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and the southern Appalachians. I have yet to get a number above 110 north of the Berkshires. In the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, the species can surpass 140 feet and at least a few reach 150 feet as confirmed by Will Blozan.

Tulip Poplar: I have little confidence that I've measured the height champion Tulip tree of Massachusetts. However, it probably won't be much more than the Northampton tree. We are near the northern end of the growing range of the Tulip poplar. In the southern Appalachians Will Blozan and I have measured the species to over 170 feet. We've yet to measure one over 200 and reports of such trees are likely authors merely repeating one another. None offer any real proof. As far as southern and central New England, I believe that 125 to 130 feet is the upper height limit of the species. On Long Island, NY and farther south, the tree can reach 130 to 150 feet. However, it is hard to establish real limits because of height exaggerations in the big tree reports.

Bigtooth Aspen: This may be as exceptional as the White ash and American beech. Despite what tree books quote for this species, the Bigtooth aspen can grow tall in some locations, but 121 feet is remarkable.

Northern Red Oak: I suspect this figure results more from my lack of concentrating on the species. However, despite their period of fast growth, oaks tend to flatten out and 110 feet tends to be their limit in central Massachusetts.

Bitternut Hickory: I have very little data on this species.

Red Pine: This tree grown on the Mount Tom State Reservation. The tree grows among White pines. Had the Red pine been competing with members of its own species, it would likely not have broken 100 feet. Where growing naturally in central New England, the species is found in conditions unfavorable to significant height. The 1930s reservoir plantation trees one routinely sees are a little too young to be above 100 feet. This tree grew naturally, but seems to be an anomaly.

American Sycamore: In our region, this species can easily reach 90 to 110 feet, but I just don't find them above that . Big sycamores in other parts of the central and northeastern U.S. seem to top out at 90 to 110 feet. In the South and in the Mid-west, the American sycamore can easily surpass 120 feet. There are reports of much taller trees, but the reports usually are based on wholly inadequate measurements. I measured a sycamore in the Beall Woods of Illinois to almost 120 feet. Will Blozan has measured them to 152 feet in the Smokies.

Red Maple: North of the Berkshire region, I've not found any Red maples that break 100 feet in height, although I haven't been looking very hard either. I've measured Red maples in New York state that slightly top 100 feet and seen trees in this range in Pennsylvania. Lee Frelich reports Red maples to 120 feet in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan. In parts of the southern Appalachians, the species is huge. I measured one Red maple to 145 feet in the Smokies. Will Blozan confirmed the national champion Red maple at 141 feet. I expect Will Blozan to eventually measure one there at or above 150. In our region, the species continues to produce surprises. I've been finding a surprising number in the 100 foot class. So far though, the 113 footer is the champion.

Black Cherry: Western Pennsylvania is Black cherry country. We've measured Black cherries in Cook Forest State Park to 136 feet. Black cherries of comparable height grow in the southern Appalachians. In western Massachusetts though, the species tops out at 100 to 110 feet, with 115 probably the limit to which the species can grow in any part of central or southern New England.

Mohawk Trail SF is well represented above. This is my stomping grounds, so one might conclude that were I to concentrate elsewhere, I might equal or surpass the above numbers. However, unless I were to concentrate to the west and south, surpassing the above numbers would not be as likely as one might think. Everywhere I go, I take samples. Within a slightly broader region, I have found some areas of the southern Taconics in New York state to hold great promise. I hope to spend more time there in the future. Even so, the central Berkshire region of Massachusetts is ideal for species such as white ash and sugar maple. More to the point, the Mohawk Trail and Monroe State Forests and Mount Greylock have large areas of mature forest. The countryside of much of New England is heavily cut. Large areas have been high-graded for decades. So despite the daunting forested land area to search, the number of locations where one might find trees of champion stature is proving to be quite small.