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.


Snyder-Middleswarth Natural Area is reported to cover 500 acres. Just
upstream and adjacent to this site is another natural area, Tall Timbers
~ 300-500 acres, which I wasnít able to get into. This site is heavily
dominated by old growth E. hemlock. It also houses the tallest hemlock
to be found in the state at 8.3ft CBH x 142.8ft high. It beats Cook
Forestís tallest hemlock by a mere 0.6ft. Who knows what other
treasures lie in this hollow. This site has very steep sides which rise
to about 300-500ft above the stream bottom. Bob found this hemlock a
few years ago and directed me right to it. A decent hiking trail starts
at the picnic area and works up and around this stream valley. It
definitely warrants a number of return trips. The hemlock wooly adelgid
is very heavy in this area. Bureau of Forestry has been busy with
predator beetle releases at this site for some time now. Hopefully, the
infestation is on the downturn. The beetles are starting to take hold.



Snyder-Middleswarth hemlock record Dale Luthringer
May 16, 2003 13:29 PDT 


I recently took the opportunity to venture back into Snyder-Middleswarth Natural Area to re-check the tall hemlock we've been keeping tabs on over the years. All my prior measurements were taken from along the trail near the bottom of the ravine. My trail measurements were all around ~143.5ft, but I decided that maybe I ought to re-check these from further up the slope... Needless to say I had a much clearer view and was able to catch another sprig that was not in view from further down the slope. I must admit that I fell prey to laziness and time constraints in my prior trip. I checked from two increasingly higher elevations and came up with the same measurement 2x. It now stands at 8.2ft x 145.3ft! Looks like the tall hemlock record passes from Cook Forest back to Snyder-Middleswarth. The hemlock wooly adelgid is very thick in there, we don't know how much longer it'll be with us.

Bruce Kershner, Gerry, and I took an excursion hike into the dame area the following day searching out the ridgetops of Snyder's. The old growth extends all the way up the ridge. The bottom of the ravine is dominated by old growth hemlock, yellow birch, a some white pine, then changes into old growth black birch, chestnut oak, pitch pine, and stunted white pine at the ridge top. The knarl factor was definitely in gear and quite evident on the ridge tops. I think I finally got a good picture of old growth black birch bark. It's like a whole other world opens up in terms of slope aspect and moisture. It was also my first experience with dwarf old growth forest communities.

Bruce and Gerry pointed out a hobblebush viburnum that we put at 0.4ft x 10.2ft. There may be another just a bit taller on the opposite slope, but we were running out of daylight. Snyder-Middleswarth is definitely a prime example of old growth hemlock in the state. Bruce stated that someone has documented hemlock in here to the 600+ year range. Most of the oldest we noted were in the 350-400 year range. Talk about knarl factor hemlocks. Many were reminiscent of the old growth hemlock in the Smokies.