Overblown Sizes - Horse Cove Poplar, NC  

I had been told that there was a truly huge poplar tree sometimes
referred to as the Horse Cove Poplar near the Ammons Branch Campground
below Highlands. During my camping/hiking trip there recently, we went
to see it. While it's a nice tree, I was a little disappointed due to
the hype over it being called (variously) the "second largest tree in
NC", the "third largest poplar in the world", the "largest poplar tree
in the Nantahala National Forest", etc.

It's nice. But it doesn't measure up to the hype, unfortunately. Also,
some asswipes have carved their initials in the tree over the years.
It's only about fifty yards from the road.

I'll try to add some photos, one a stitched composite:



Same here James. That tree just illustrates the importance of the ENTS
mission, and the huge nearly insurmountable pile of crap we have to climb
over. I mean no disrespect to a very nice tree, but it is no where close to
the claims you list. I plan to reticle it someday.


     Alas, I fear we'll never climb to the top of that "pile of crap" that you eloquently describe. Our efforts will always be a work in progress. Even when we successfully win a few scientific sources over to our numbers, we will always be faced with a larger problem. Measurement information, good versus bad, is virtually indistinguishable to the general public. Thousands, millions, and billions are indistinguishable to John Q. Public. Now, with the worldwide Internet, proliferation of outdated information and measurement errors is at the level of a pandemic. Accurately measured trees are literally lost in a sea of outdated and error laden Internet information from which anybody can pick and choose.   
     Part of the problem (challenge) is that the proliferating information has no shelf-life so to speak. Outdated information is never purged from the sources or put into a historical context and it doesn't seem to matter what topic we choose. Take even the prestigeous Peak Baggers association. Outdated peak elevations coexist with updates on related lists often only a keyboard click a part. If the Peakbaggers fall behind, what chance is there for the poor tree people. But, the madness doesn't end with trees and mountains. Top speeds of animals such as the Cheetah, commonly quoted as 70 MPH, are up for grabs. There is reason to believe that the top speed of the Cheetah is closer to 60 MPH, but who knows which measuring techniques have been used. Then there is the inclination of sources to quote statistical outliers as typical of a species. Also, when numbers are quoted, the conditions of measurement are seldom explained a nd there are attendant questions that don't get answered. When a Cheetah is being clocked, is it going its maximum? Can it reach its absolute maximum in the particular terrain where it is being clocked?
      Trusting to unproven sources is epidemic. Even a popular naturalist like Jeff Corwin of APL regularly misquotes the statistics. What comes immediately to mind is the top speed of a Peregrin Falcon. Jeff quoted it as 120 MPH, when it is apparently much higher than that. One instance of 120 was measured by a sky diver. The bird was just flying along with its master. Then the bird took off like a rocket leaving the sky diver far behind.
      There is the example of the maximum weights of the great cats, i.e. lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards. It is turning out that the maximum weights of tigers are being exaggerated. Siberian and Bengal tigers can reach 500 lbs in the wild, and on occasion more, but most large male tigers in the wild are probably in the 400 to 450 lb range. Well fed animals in captivity probably exceed the averages of their wild brothers and sisters by at least 100 lbs. Yet, we commonly hear numbers in the range of 600 to 800 lbs bandied about as though tigers frequently attain such weights.
      African lions are generally considered to weigh a little less on the average than tigers, but well fed circus lions probably equal the tigers in weight. Clyde Beatty, the former circus king, said so in a book of his that I once read. Just looking at the two species side by side doesn't suggest much difference in average weights.
      The same specious weight data exists for the polar and brown bears. They are the two largest carnivores on the planet and proponents of each quote their species to be the largest. Big males of both species can reach 800 lbs and occasionally exceed 1,000, with around 1,400 being maximum. However, it is not clear how often the higher weights are reached. In addition the weights of bears vary greatly throughout the year. Before denning they are greatest. But to hunt them down and dart mature bears just to weigh them to get maximums, meaningful averages, and measures of dispersion isn't done that I know of.   
        I could go on with other examples of overstated maximums and use (or misuse) of maximums for averages. Meteorology gives us abundant opportunies to examine numbers that are presented for public consumption on popular TV nature programs. Top speeds of the tornado winds are an example. I think meteorologists are finally getting a handle on top tornadic winds courtesy of Doppler radar. In terms of overall climate, hotest, coldest, driest, and wettest spots are common sources of misinformation and exaggerations. Is there a rainest spot on Earth. If so is it a spot in India, Colombia, or Hawaii? Consider the following source on the Internet:
"The wettest place in the world is Tutunendo, Colombia, with an average rainfall of 463.4 inches (1177 centimeters) per year. The place that has the most rainy days per year is Mount Wai-'ale'ale on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. It has up to 350 rainy days annually."
Compare the above to the following one that discusses Cherrapunji as the reputed wettest spot on the planet.
"Cherrapunji's yearly rainfall average stands at 11,430 mm (450 in). This figure places it behind only nearby Mawsynram, Meghalaya, whose average is 11,873 mm (467 in) and Mount Waiʻaleʻale on the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi, whose average is 11,684 mm (460 in).[2]. "
     "Experts" who should know better often extrapolate or use an isolated figure to make a qualitative judgement. For instance, more than one TV reporter has claimed that Mount Washington N.H. has the world's worst weather - a mainfestly ridiculous claim. This claim was once made often.
       Well, the list of misused numbers, erroneous measurements, etc. goes on. The lesson for us in all this is to resolve among oursleves that ENTS will hold to our high standards. We will place maximum importance on maintaining accurate and up to date tall-large tree lists and to never, ever pollute our data with numbers from unwashed sources.


That was the best explanation of “pile of crap” I have seen yet! Although your “pile” below may be analogous to a “runny”, wide-spreading slurry of crap.