Alan Seeger Natural area, Pa    David Orwig
   Nov 06, 2002 10:44 PST 
Ernie Ostuno Gallery

For those who are interested in learning more about the impressive Alan Seeger Natural Area, check out Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club vol. 121: 277-291 (1994), where my good friend Greg Nowacki along with Marc Abrams, did a detailed analysis of that forest. There are some massive hemlocks there and some massive downed hemlocks as well. Greg cored trees back to 1510. The site is definitely worth seeing.   

Thanks   Sincerely, DAVE ORWIG

David A. Orwig, Ph.D.
Forest Ecologist
Harvard University          978-724-3302 ext.250
Harvard Forest                Web address:
P.O. Box 68
Petersham, MA 01366

Alan Seeger Natural Area Dale
Monday, November 18, 2002 7:49 PM

I'm not totally sure that I found your tuliptree today. I found four tulips over 130, but the highest I could accurately get was 134.7 at 8.9ft CBH.

I started on the left side of the loop going upstream (left side of stream). I crossed the first bridge over a small stream and was hit by a ton of rocks with the thick rhodes and knarly black gum and hemlock. There was a small patch of tulips on the left side of the path, maybe four. I wasn't able to measure these accurately due to the thick rhodo cover, but I did get what I believed to be the highest in this group at 124.4+ft at 6.8ft CBH.   

I proceeded over the next bridge that went half way across the first part of the larger stream, the water was up, so now I was on an "island". Now just on the right after this second bridge were 2 tall tulips just off the path a couple of yards. I'm hoping one of these trees were the one you were talking about. The fatter one at 8.9ft CBH averaged out at 134.7ft (135.1, 134.6, 134.5). The slender one right beside it went to 132.1+ft at 6.5ft CBH. The only shot I could get for this one was directly underneath. Matter of fact, both were 132.1+ft from underneath. The rhodes were so thick here... it reminded me of the Smokies. I practically had to roll on top of them. The only way I could get the 8.9ft CBH tree was to get up on top of two rhodes (sat on one, with my feet on the other) above the forest floor. This is the first time I used this formula: sin top - sin bottom + distance from paper to base. Since I didn't bring a pole, I tagged a piece of paper on the trunk above the rhodes so I could get a trunk measurement.

I couldn't shoot through the canopy to get all of the tops on either of these. I even tried going across the stream and shoot down on them from the opposite steep bank, but to no avail. I even thought of doing a Will move by climbing up another nearby tree, but there weren't any branches down low enough, and I forgot to bring my levitation boots. I've yet to "evolve" hairy apelike arms to shimmy up trees yet... Will's got us beat on that.

My tulip tally as follows:

8.9        134.7
9.6        132.6
6.5        132.2+
N/A       130.4+
10.4      126.9
N/A       126.1
6.8        124.4+
8.2        121.6

Rucker Index

Specie               CBH     Height         Est. Max Height

E. white pine      9.5       134.9          134.9
tuliptree             8.9        134.7          140
E. hemlock        11.2      114.9          120
white ash           5.7       111.1          115
N. red oak          8.8       108.1+        110
white oak           6.9       108.1+        110
red maple          5.8        105.1+        110
cucumbertree     5.2       102.2          105
chestnut oak      8          96.1+          100
black gum          6.6       82.1+          90
                                    109.73        113.49

PA Natural Area Comparison via Rucker Index

Site                   Rucker Index     Est. Acres old growth reported acres old growth

Cook Forest       134.05              1500                                   171
Ander's Run       118.65                  20                                   ~50
Heart's Content 113.79                  25                                   131
Alan Seeger       109.73                  20                                   118
Tionesta             106.12                 20                                  4000

Notice how Cook and Tionesta kind of did the 'flip-flop'? I still get people telling me how great Tionesta and Seeger is over Cook. Well, now I can say I've been to Alan Seeger and can put that argument to rest.

Am I missing something at Ander's Run? Are they hiding more old growth upstream from the bridge crossings, or is this another case of hype? I went upstream on the right side for a bit until I thought I ran out of old growth. I found no old growth white pine, but the knarly hemlock and black gum made me feel better. The best representation of old growth I was able to find were at the bridge crossings.   

Thanks for your directions to this site. It really helped me nail down the search. I probably spent a good two hours trying to get decent heights on these tulips. They're probably a bit higher, but I just couldn't find a spot except from underneath... some I didn't even want to try to get underneath, I didn't bring my swimming gear!

PA Natural Area tall trees and site comparisons   Dale J. Luthringer
  Dec 05, 2002 13:28 PST 

Hi Folks,

Iíve finally got all my tall tree data organized for the state of
Pennsylvania. I no longer have data backlogged to the beginning of
October. After my recent whirlwind tour of the Smokies, PAís natural
areas, and getting paperwork finished for the park, I finally had time
to sit down at the computer and start poking in and rechecking my
results. Iíve attached an excel spreadsheet for those who are
interested in current tree height records for Pennsylvania and Rucker
Index comparisons for some of our natural areas.

First a short description of each PA natural area Iíve had a chance to
visit over the last 2 months.

The Alan Seeger Natural Area is a special place at only 118 acres.
There were a good number of very knarly black gums, probably the oldest
Iíve had the pleasure of observing to date, not to mention the ancient
E. hemlock. It had a very thick rhododendron understory. A small
stream carves its way through the site. Besides the path, it would
probably be the next easiest way through this site. Will and Bob could
rate it on a scale of 1-10 better than I, but the rhodes were thicker
than what I observed on my recent trip with Will in the Smokies. I
think Will rated the worst of what we went through at 4, which I thought
was pretty bad, maybe Iíd give Alan Seeger a modest 5 on the
rhodo-surfing scale. Iíd probably put it to 7 or 8 with my limited
experience in the sport of rhodo surfing. Bobís superb directions
enabled me to find his PA tuliptree height champion here at 137.7ft. I
wasnít able to squeeze my laser through the canopy to find his branch
though. My best shot was while balancing precariously on top of two
large rhodes. Will would have been proudÖ it was a great start for
Ďyoung grasshopperí. I donít think Iíll ever graduate to Willís
perfected bear hug tree scaling technique. Come to Cook Forest in the
spring for your next lesson as he scales the Seneca Pine at ~172ft!

Alan Seeger Natural Area    Leverett, Robert
   Nov 19, 2002 06:03 PST 

   Good show. You definitely found the trees. I had a heck of a time with that tuliptree. I got 134's and 135's mostly. but luck would have it that I found a spot where the far right side and well back into the crown gave me the 137 bounces. About 1 out of every 3.

    With respect to Tionesta and Alan Seeger being touted as better than Cook Forest, by some, we just have to expect those kinds of judgments. They are the impressions of uncalibrated eyes. Happens all the time. That's why there is an ENTS and you are a very important part of it, my friend.

    It isn't that I don't appreciate tips from others and am always courteous when dealing with the innocent perceptions of others, it is just that fine tuning the eye to vertical differences of 5 to 10 feet at hypotenuse distances of 100 to 200 feet, isn't something that everybody is trying to master. You get good at what you reinforce. Let's face it. This is our thing. It's just that simple.

    On a slightly different topic, Bob Van Pelt's mention of the 8 degree leaner prompted me to calculate the height error from eye level to base that one might make if the trunk leans in the direction of the viewer. Suppose the amount of trunk below eye level is 30 feet, the angle from the eye to the base is 16 degrees, and at 30 feet up, the trunk is 4 feet closer to the viewer than it would be were there no lean. Suppose the distance to the leaning trunk is lasered at 100 feet at eye level. The calculation of the height from eye level to base will be 28.9 feet. Thus, the amount of under-calculation will be 1.1 feet. From my experience, this is a pretty severe error for trunk to base calculations that are based on tangents. More commonly, the eye to base error on leaning trees is under a foot.

    One can randomly check on leans of trees on slopes where a good eye to base distance can be obtained. If one has the angle and distance to the base (below eye level), then the cosine of the angle to the base times the distance to the base gives the horizontal distance from the eye to a vertical trunk. Shoot the distance to the trunk at eye level, moving forward or backward to a point of laser changeover then add or subtract the distance to the original point of measurement. Otherwise you could be up to 3 feet off on this measurement. You now have a good calculation of the eye level distance to trunk. There is a chance of compounding errors from such measurements, but one can certainly detect strong leans from this method and allow one to develop a feel for the averages. I'm sure Bob Van Pelt has this kind of analysis down to a science appropriate to the fine scientist that he is.


Re: Alan Seeger pub   David Orwig
  Apr 08, 2004 06:00 PDT 
Hi Dale, the pub you are referring to concerning the Alan Seeger Natural
Area is: 

Nowacki and Abrams 1994. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical
club 121: 277-291. A great relic of the past.. 


RE: hemlocks in Pa   Dale J. Luthringer
  Jul 19, 2005 17:37 PDT 

Bob and I have spent considerable time at Alan Seeger Natural Area.
There was a really massive hemlock there that approached the dimensions
you list, but I believe it blew over a number of years ago. It was
right on the path towards the back loop and was quite large. ~500 seems
about right for its age. I know folks on this list have published
coring data at this site.

I believe Bob and I have measured everything in there of significance.
Hereís what we have for some big/tall tree stats at Alan Seeger:

Alan Seeger Natural Area

Species            CBH     Height Rucker Index

Tuliptree            8.9        137.7         111.13
Tuliptree            10.4      126.9
E. white pine     8.6        137.6
E. white pine     9.5        134.9
E. hemlock        11.2      118.2
White ash         5.7        111.1
N. red oak         8.8        108.1+
White oak         6.9        108.1+
White oak         9.2        100.5
Red maple         5.8        105.1+
Cucumbertree    5.2        102.2
Chestnut oak     8            96.1+
Black gum         6.6          87.1+

The rhodes are very thick in there in spots, really reminded me of the
Smokies in miniature. Black gums are ancient here also. Probably has
one of the finest stand of old growth black gum in the state, at least
the best that Iíve seen in Western PA. Nearby Detweiler Run Natural
Area has trees that are probably every bit as old as Anders Run.
Detweiler is a much wilder place. I did some serious rhodo surfing in
there, wouldíve been easier with my surfboardÖ