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
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
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
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
Bitternut Hickory: I have very little data on this
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
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
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.