Erie County old growth sites   Dale J. Luthringer
  Mar 29, 2004 10:21 PST 
Bob, Tom, Bruce,

My Jack Russel and I found two very small sections of old growth in Erie
County, PA last week The first is in Wintergreen Gorge about Ĺ mile
upstream from Penn State Behrend behind the Wintergreen Green Gorge
Cemetery. This first site is located mostly on a steep finger that
gives access to the bottom of the gorge. There is also some old growth
on the gorge bank escarpment.

The finger going into the gorge is about a 35degree east facing slope.
The west face is a sheer 100-150ft drop depending on where you stand.
This site is classic dwarf old growth E. hemlock and with some old
mid-sized Am. beech. The loamy soils are covered with a 1-2Ē layer of
what I believe is a type of Ďpin cushionĒ moss. My mouth just dropped
as I came down over the top of the escarpment and walked right into the
knarliest small hemlocks Iíve seen in a long time. It looked just like
the old growth hemlock at Cook Forest, but on 1/7 the scale. The
gnarled twisted tops and corkscrew branching of these roughly 20-30ft
dwarfs must have some age to them. I will take a core sample to

I recorded the following rough ring counts:

Species            stump ring count            Site

E. hemlock        215+ years                    stump, on flat upstream
from finger, recent clearcut
Am. beech        175+ years                    recent snag, near bottom
of finger
N. red oak         113+ years                    stump, 2nd growth site
along escarpment
N. red oak         125+ years                    stump, 2nd growth site
along escarpment

As you worked farther down the finger towards the stream, the trees
became taller and more Am. beech started to filter in. The beech will
go to 175 at this site easy. I suspect the taller hemlocks at the
bottom of the gorge would go to 200+, but Iím hoping that the dwarf
hemlock towards the top of the finger will top that. They resembled the
ancient dwarf E. hemlock at Joyce Kilmer Natural Area in central PA.

The escarpment old growth consisted mostly of old growth sugar maple,
Am. beech, and E. hemlock. Iím estimating only about 5 acres though, so
far. There probably is more if we count other escarpment areas, but
this little dwarf hemlock site was quite impressive to me.

The second site is located in the Walnut Creek watershed, about 12 miles
east of Wintergreen Gorge. The site is located about 1 mile downstream
from the recent monster Am. beech find (15.7ft CBH x 119.3ft high), and
about ľ mile downstream from some fat sycamores (15.3ft CBH x 133.8ft
high). I decided to remeasure trees here that I havenít seen in about 3
years. This site contains a small remnant old growth beech, hemlock,
sugar maple stand. For some reason, this small flat along the creek,
about 1-3 acres, was not harvested during the lumber boom era of the
mid-1800ís. It contains old growth E. hemlock, Am. beech, sugar maple,
cucumbertree, standing snags, and large dead downed trees. Sassafras is
found near the stream also, but I donít know enough yet about sassafras
to get a feel for its age. Sassafras doesnít appear to be impressive
here. The old growth cucumbertree is quite the twisted specimen.   One
side of its top has been ripped off, itís center is hollow, and has a
number of small burls with deep furrowed bark. I suspect the hemlock,
sugars, beech, and cucumber will all go over 200 years at this site.

The area appears to be part of an old depositional bank that very rarely
floods these days and only during record rainfall events. The stream is
swift here. It has mostly a shale substrate with some conglomerate.
Itís about 30-45ft wide at about 1ft deep. The flat is about 5ft above
stream level. Iíve only seen the stream come up over the bank briefly
one time in the last 11 years which only covered part of its edge with
about 6Ē of water. There were old trees along the escarpment further
downstream, but many of these were recently logged to make way for a
house that was never built. This stand may have been part of an old
farm that was located on top of hill due south and adjacent to this
site. Barb wire fencing is embedded in the trees on the escarpment
along with an old barn footer about ľ mile south.     

Hereís some highlights from this site:

Species            CBH     Height   Coordinates

Am. beech        9.7        106.5    
Cucumbertree    9.7        110.2    42 3.067N x 80 11.760W
gnarly specimen
Sugar maple      9.3        122.9    42 3.071N x 80 11.762W
tallest found in this watershed
Sugar maple      9.6        118.5    42 3.066N x 80 11.760W            
Sugar maple      8.2        113.4    42 3.071N x 80 11.756W
Sugar maple      ~7.5      109.9

Walnut Creek Rucker Index

Species            CBH     Height   Rucker Index     Comments

Tuliptree            9.5        135.5    121.69
Sycamore         15.3      133.8
UI tree               6.6        124.6
slippery elm?
White ash         8.2        124.2
Sugar maple      9.3        122.9
Am. beech        15.7      119.3
Black locust      7.6        116.5
Bitternut hickory 6.4       115
Shagbark hickory 6.3     112.8
E. hemlock        N/A       112.3

RE: Erie County old growth sites   Dale J. Luthringer
  Mar 29, 2004 11:22 PST 


From what I've observed so far, the NW PA Erie County sites are much
more productive than most central PA sites. Glaciers moved through this
area where as they never got far enough south to reach the central PA
sites. To me, the second growth seems much more impressive at least in
terms of sugar maple, tuliptree, N. red oak, and cucumbertree. The
black cherry can be impressive also, but most of the good second growth
sites have been whacked again. I suspect we could go to the 130 foot
class easy if given enough time and in the right site, but when they're
cranking 2ft DBH x 120ft they're hard for folks not to leave alone for a
bit longer.

I'm waiting to get back into that 'super cuke' site to confirm their ID.
I just can't believe there are that many huge old cukes in one site. We
might be looking at more small acreage old growth along the Lake Erie
Presque Isle Bay escarpment.


Erie Cemetary
  Apr 17, 2006 16:45 PDT 
Hi Bob,

In a future post, I hope to highlight the Erie Cemetery in the city of
Erie, PA in the vicinity of the Lake Erie shoreline. I briefly
mentioned this site a couple years back, but wasn't able to closely
investigate it do to a broken ankle. Cukes' are impressively fat AND
old here as well as white oak and tuliptrees. I believe it holds a
glimpse back in time to the original forest type of the Erie area before
its inception on 5/20/1851.