Smokies Vs. Blacks/Big Ivy   James Smith
  Mar 19, 2006 04:07 PST 

I've noticed the conversation concerning the impressive growth rates of
certain tree species in the Great Smokies. How do the old growth areas
in the Black Mountains/Big Ivy area compare? I know we're talking about
a slightly different ecosystem (as the Blacks rise from a higher
plateau), but how does this area stack up (against the Smokies) when one
focuses only on the areas there that have been relatively undisturbed?
RE: Smokies Vs. Blacks/Big Ivy   Will Blozan
  Mar 19, 2006 08:32 PST 


From what I have seen, which is not a whole lot, the Blacks are less
productive in general than the Smokies. I have explored Mt Mitchell, the
Craggies, Big Ivy and the Douglas Falls area and saw few species that match
what grows in the Smokies. Yellow birch and Fraser fir are very impressive
in the above areas, as is Catawba rhododendron and some other smaller
species. I suspect the difference in rock and moisture account for much of
it. Even mature second-growth on what appears to be excellent sites are
20-30 feet shorter than comparable sites in the Smokies.

RE: Smokies Vs. Blacks/Big Ivy   Joshua Kelly
  Mar 19, 2006 22:35 PST 


Given my experience tromping around the Blacks, I think they equal the
smokies in productivity, and perhaps surpass them in areas with amphibolite.
Rob Messick lists a 144' tall sugar maple at 3900' in walker cove (I think
measured by Bob Leverett). I have seen several young poplars in the 3-4 dbh
range that are columnar and quite tall. The forest service did a salvage
timber sale in Big Ivey last year, and one 3' + dbh, forest grown white oak
they cut on Corner Rock Road was under 80 years old. In short, I think that
the dominance of the Smokies in the area of tree size depends on lack of
disturbance, its relatively large area, and sampling bias. Of course, the
most productive areas in both ranges were logged and/or converted to
agriculture early.

I'm hoping someone from ENTS has done the punishing work necessary to
document the hemlocks in the Waterfall Creek area. There are some Baxter
Creek sized monsters tucked away between Douglas Falls and Waterfall Cr.
The South Toe drainage also has some high growth areas, but i have explored
them less. Maple Bald Creek is a place that comes to mind as having very
tall remnant poplar and red oak at about 3600-3700 ft.

Of course, If I could go anywhere in the southern blue ridge to hang out
with big trees, I would go to the Smokies. The acreage and concentration of
primary and near primary forest there blows away anything else in the
bioregion. I think on the question of productivity though (grams of wood
produced/meter/year), rich sites in other ranges equal the smokies. The
Southern Nantahalas, for instance, have some very rich substrates and
recieve more rain. Very cool discussion topic. I'd like to know what others

RE: Smokies Vs. Blacks/Big Ivy   Will Blozan
  Mar 20, 2006 04:39 PST 


Jess and I explored the Douglas Falls and Waterfall Creek drainages last
fall. We saw very nice hemlocks but did not measure a single one since they
were so short and "small" relative to the Smokies. We intend to go back and
entice the USFS to treat the groves-they are AWESOME!

The 144' sugar maple was a tape-drag and has since been retracted by Bob. It
is more likely in the 120' range as Michael Davie and I discovered years ago
on another measuring trip.

I would love to see the southern Natahala's and the rich coves you describe.

BTW, Baxter Creek does not have big hemlocks. In fact, ENTS has never
confirmed a hemlock 150' tall anywhere on Baxter or Big Creek.

RE: Smokies Vs. Blacks/Big Ivy   Joshua Kelly
  Mar 22, 2006 12:08 PST 


In a WNCA meeting with the Appalachian District several weeks ago, Paul
Bradley informed us that Linda Randolph was not able to make the meeting
because she was releasing Sasajicymnus (sp.?) beetles at Douglas Falls. Too
bad they are not also working with Laricobius nigrinus. I am enthusiastic
about the prospects of bio-control of HWA with the Lari or the combination
of the two. And, after all, L. nigrinus is from North America

I am surprised by the lack of a 150' tree at Baxter Creek. Some of the
western tribs have spectacular hemlock forest and I have seen emergent
hemlock in hardwood forest in one virgin area of Baxter Creek. What is the
tallest hemlock you have from Big Creek? As I said in a previous email, I
would be surprised if there weren't hemlocks in the Waterfall Cr. area that
didn't break 140', but I'm no height expert, and the talk of heights
obscures the topic of productivity somewhat.

Many of the most intact forests remaining in other mountain ranges lack the
gentle slopes and protection from winds that the most impressive places in
the Smokies have. I think that these factors are very improtant in
determining tree height. The other major factors (other variables being
equal) are soil depth and chemistry. Again, it is my belief, based on my
knowledge of the abiotic conditions of various mountain ranges in the
Soutern Blue Ridge, that there are sites in other ranges that rival the
Smokies in productivity (grams of biomass or wood/meter sq./year). There
may be no extant sites that rival the Smokies in tree height, girth or
volume. However, given time and an emphasis on restoration of prime sites to
natural forest processes, I believe examples would reveal themselves.