Some North Carolina Trees   Will Blozan
  Aug 19, 2004 19:14 PDT 

I have been fortunate to have been able to accompany Jess Riddle on two tree
hunts in the Smokies in past the few months. One was to Collins Creek, off
US 441 near the Cherokee Reservation. The other, last weekend, was an epic
trek into middle Deep Creek, specifically the drainage of Dancing Branch
near Bryson City, NC. Both drainages were reported to have some old-growth
forests even though they were in the midst of intense logging in the early

Collins Creek 6/27/04

The vast majority of this drainage was cut over and heavy logging was
evident by no relic trees and numerous skid roads. However, one small upper
section was left uncut and some fine trees remain. One tree in particular
that we went to see was a huge tuliptree that Jess found that he felt may be
close in volume to some of the larger tuliptrees currently known. He found
the tree, and it was around 23' in girth but had excessive basal swelling.
We figured the tree had ~2500 ft3 or less and took no further measurements.
However, on the way up Jess spotted a fairly large Allegheny serviceberry
(4'7") that looked very tall. I went upslope and with the laser confirmed
it's height to 108.8'- a new ENTS record for the species. Three are now
known over 100' tall. No other exceptional trees, but very nice forest. A
huge (15'+) northern red oak had a giant root that snaked down the slope for
a distance of 25' or so, and I will send a photo to Ed to post. HWA was so
heavy that not a SINGLE understory tree- not even a 2" tall seedling-- was
uninfested. Here are the other trees:

Red oak stitch 2.jpg (69634 bytes)

Red oak stitch. Tree on Collins Creek ~ 15'+ girth.

Eastern hemlock

10'2" X 156.2'


8'11" X 156.3'

White ash

10'9" X 141.1'

Northern red oak

10'2" X 140.1'

11'11" X 137.7'

White basswood

4'11" X 128.9'

Upper Baxter Creek 7/10/04

This was a trip by myself to revisit a few trees I had not seen in a long
time, and to photograph a new red maple state champion nominee (already
posted by ED on the ENTS site). I remeasured of a huge black birch (9'10" X
101') I had not seen since 1993. It has not grown since then and should be a
NC State Champion or co-champion. I also found a large Fraser magnolia that
may be a new state record, although Rob Messick likely has a larger one from
Mackey Mountain, I believe.

Some other incidental trees:

Allegheny serviceberry

5'5" X 78' X 52'

Fraser magnolia

8' X 108.3' X 44'

Dancing Branch 8/14/04

While searching for the trailhead for Noland Divide I spotted a huge
persimmon that may well be a new NC State Champion. At 6'10" It is by far
the largest I have seen in NC and nearly the largest I have ever seen except
for a big one in Knoxville, TN. The girth rivals those in Congaree Swamp NP,
although its 71' height is unexceptional. 

Persimmon 3.jpg (45283 bytes)

Persimmon 6' 10" girth. Possible NC State Champion.

The upper reaches of Dancing
Branch has numerous large hop-hornbeams up to 3'11" in girth, but nothing we
saw would rival the huge one (5'7" X 64') on the Hemphill Bald Trail that
Michael Davie and I measured years ago. On the way to the "good stuff" Jess
and I measured a beautiful black birch, which at 7' in girth, reached a near
record height of 114'9". Further down, to our dismay, it appeared that most
of the big trees had been cut, with numerous American chestnut stumps
evident with no logs present. A total lack of older tuliptree indicated
selective logging, and very few, if any, large commercially valuable species
were present. However, the remnant tree recovery was great, and some new
height records or near records were found. 

Most notably was a huge,
perfectly formed 11'11" cucumber magnolia that stood at a new record height
of 148' even. Terminal growth evident on the tree will likely yield a 150'
tree in two good growing seasons. 

148' Cucumbertree2.jpg (72766 bytes)

148' Cucumbertree 11'11' girth, new eastern height record.

Next to this tree was a beautiful northern
red oak (9'9") that reached a height of 146'-the second tallest known in the
Smokies. Next to it was a tuliptree of modest girth of 9'1" that reached
170.1'. Further downstream in a gorgeous grove by the creek, another
tuliptree (9'4") soared to 172.1'. 

Next to it was an eastern hemlock (11'7")
that is now a new Smokies height record at 168.1' (an average of 4
measurements with a range of 14"-- .6% error range-- the laser rules!!!).

Record hemlock1.jpg (42110 bytes)

Record hemlock 168.1' tall Smokies living tree height record.

Record tsca base 2.jpg (138234 bytes)

Record tsca base.  Jess Riddle at base of new Smokies eastern hemlock height record of 168.1'.

Four other hemlocks in the grove reached 149.8', 10'2" X 156.7', 9'11" X
156.9' and 12'1" X 159.3'. A tuliptree in the midst of the hemlocks reached
11'2" X 167.4'. The hemlock woolly adelgid has a firm grip on the drainage
and most hemlocks looked really poor.

I am kind of getting bummed that the 177' height ceiling for tuliptree and
170' ceiling for hemlock may not be breached. It seems that EVERY tall tree
of these species falls within a very short range of each other, and I wonder
if we will ever find the "freak show" tree that rewrites the books. For the
hemlock, the book is likely closed, and tuliptree may hold some surprises,
but I am anxious to find them!

Jess, feel free top add to the descriptions, as you do so well!