Wintergreen Gorge and PA Rucker Index update   Dale J. Luthringer
  May 24, 2004 08:45 PDT 
Bob, Tom, Bruce,

I had some spare time this Sunday to check the record red maple in
Wintergreen Gorge behind PSU Behrend for correct species identification
and height. I checked this tree a number of times over the late winter
with no leaves, and was beginning to think that I had grossly
misidentified this tree by using bark characters. The bark resembles
sugar maple, but the leaves are definitely red maple. There are a
number of sugars nearby, which show classic sugar bark and leaf
structure. If I would have first found this tree in the winter and went
on bark alone, I probably would've identified it as a sugar maple. I've
actually gone through this exercise 2x now, and am thoroughly convinced
it is a red maple. My question is, have red and sugar maples been known
to hybridize?

Last year's height on 4/19/03 was 136.6ft. The last time I measured it
for height this year was on 3/21/04 at 136.7ft. It's starting to
experience crown breakage due to wind, but the top branch is still
holding strong.

I was also able to find a taller E. hemlock in late March. It's located
in the bottom of the ravine near the depositional side of a sharp curve
in the creek. It's a nice hemlock with some age, >200 years, at 7.8ft
CBH x 128ft high. The steep finger leading down into this section of
the ravine is the first section of stunted old growth hemlock I've come
across in Erie County. Preliminary core count suggest 357 years on a
very gnarled and stunted specimen (4.7ft CBH x 60.3ft high)! A nice N.
red oak nearby went to 143+. Ring counts on recently harvested hemlock
along the streambed farther upstream to ~215 years.

I also got another 12x100 class N. red oak on the edge of this old
growth area to 12.6ft CBH x 105.1+ft high. I've now followed the entire
west side of the stream course south to I-90. My next endeavor will be
to check out one drainage and finish following the east escarpment south
to I-90 as well. Crown architecture along the escarpment suggests
numerous oak and beech to at least the 150 age class, but I'm not sure
how thick this buffer is. Should be an interesting hike.

Wintergreen Gorge's current Rucker Index as follows:

Species            CBH     Height   Comments        Rucker Index

Tuliptree            9.5        145.4                            128.28
Red maple         7.8        136.7    tallest NE US
White ash         9.9        129.8
Sycamore         7.7        129.7
E. hemlock        7.8        128
Slippery elm      8.8        123.7    tallest NE US
Sugar maple      5.7        123.4    tallest PA
Cucumbertree    8.6        123.1    tied tallest NE US
Am. basswood   9          121.7    tallest PA
Black cherry      8.8        121.3

Wintergreen's last RI was 127.89 back in 2003.

Here is how the rest of Pennsylvania's sites line up:

Site                                          Rucker Index    Site

Cook Forest State Park            135.47             mostly old growth,
all RI species > 150 years
Wintergreen Gorge                   128.28             mostly 2nd growth
Fairmont Park                          127.72             2nd
growth/urban old growth?
Ander's Run Natural Area        121.48             old growth & 2nd
Walnut Creek Gorge                121.28             mostly 2nd growth
Ricketts Glen State Park           119.85             mostly old growth
Heart's Content Natural Area   113.79             mostly old growth
Lake Erie Community Park       113.57             mostly 2nd growth
Alan Seeger Natural Area         111.13             mostly old growth
Coho Property                         109.59             2nd growth
Scott Community Park              109.56             old growth & 2nd
Tionesta Natural Area               109.36             mostly old growth
Detweiler Run Natural Area      104.65             mostly old growth,
all RI species > 150 years
Laurel Run Rd.                         104.6               2ndary old
growth, private site, Centre County
Glenwood Park                         98.08             urban old
Bear Meadows Natural Area      97.72             mostly old growth, all
RI species > 150 years
Parker Dam State Park               85.57             2nd growth

Best Regards,