Station Cove (Competition for Congaree?)   Jess
  Nov 12, 2002 17:51 PST 
Station Cove occupies approximately 125 acres of rich Brevard Fault Zone
soils in northwestern South Carolina. The easily accessed cascade at the
top of the cove and the exceptionally dense colonies of spring-blooming
herbaceous plants have made the cove publicly popular, and the site has
longed been recognized as an excellent example of mixed mesophytic forest.
The forest has also been identified as old growth with trees in the
140-175 year age range at the upper end of the cove (see articles by L.
L. "Chick" Gaddy). I originally doubted this figure, but open revisiting
the site that age range seems plausible for that small area of the cove.
Steep slopes form an arc that delineate three sides of the east facing
cove with a beaver produced wet-land at the eastern edge. The cascade
forms where Station Creek flows over a cliff at the western edge. The
stream then flows at the intersection of the intersection of the steep,
north-facing slopes and the broad, flat interior of the cove. These north
facing slopes, the southern portion of the arc delineating the cove,
support most of the mixed mesophytic forest in the cove, especially the
slope in the narrow portion of the cove just below the waterfall. Oaks,
primarily white but including black, chestnut, northern red and possibly
post, dominate the flats and the south facing slopes. Redbuds are
prolific on these slopes, attesting to the rich soils at the site. The
soils are derived from actinolite and have a pH of approximately 6.2
I visited the cove once last winter, but I did mainly reconnaissance
since I didn't feel like answering a bunch of questions about what in the
world I was doing. I managed to wander off of the trail for a little
while and measure 133.4' and 141.8' white at the northern edge of the
flat. I also saw a white ash, a red elm, a tuliptree, and a black oak
that looked tall, but those trees were close to the trail and I couldn't
find a vantage point to measure the black oak from. Last Saturday I was
going to measure trees in an adjacent cove; however, I felt somewhat
lethargic, so I decided to look around some of the less visible parts of
Station Cove. The first tree I encountered of interest was an unusually
healthy looking, 4'9" cbh butternut. In a shallow side cove above that
tree I measured a 6'1" cbh 139.0' tall pignut hickory, the first tall tree
of the day but not exceptional for hickories on the escarpment on the west
side of Station Mountain. From there I went along the north facing slopes
towards the falls and encountered an area with several nice tuliptrees and
northern red oaks. An unusually shaped 10'11" white in this area is
123.6' tall. I did not measure any of the tuliptrees, but they probably
reached the mid to upper 140's. The northern red oak that appeared to be
the tallest is 7'0" cbh and 126.9' tall. One 7'0" cbh white ash in this
area goes up 61.5' before branching and reaches a total height of 133.0'.
I had suspected that ash reached 130' in the area, but in the other coves
of the Station Mountain escarpment (Tamassee Knob area) I had only found
them into the upper 120s. From there I descended to the narrow part of
the cove below the falls. This site wildly exceeded my expectations.
To keep from blowing the following numbers out of proportion, I should
mention that my rangefinder seems to read long, probably by one or two
yards. I still haven't calibrated it, so these numbers may err on the
high side. The tree closest to the cascade that I measured is a columnar
white ash that grows among the blocks that have sheered off from the
falls. The tree is 8'4" cbh and reaches 133.1' barely eclipsing the ash I
measured earlier in the day. The next tree downstream of the falls is the
bitternut hickory that I saw last winter that forks at 64.1' from the
ground. The total height of the 7'0" cbh tree is 154.1'. This tree is
easily taller than any other bitternut I know of in SC. The tree needs to
be checked with another laser to see how it compares to the towering
bitternuts in the Smokies. Most of these comments apply to the 6'5" red
elm that grows a few yards away. The 141.2' measurement for that tree
amazed me. The relative heights for those three trees agree with the
visual appearance of the trees, and I got the ash in the 131' to 134' foot
range by shooting vertically with my rangefinder. The heights must be in
the right ballpark. The tuliptree within sight of these trees where the
cove begins to broaden is 164.8' tall and 7'4" cbh. The tuliptree is now
the forth one on the Station Mountain escarpment and the forth one in the
state to be measured at over 160'. Farther down the cove, the 7'7" cbh
black oak I saw last winter turned out to be 127.7' tall. The tree is now
the tallest known black oak in SC, but I doubt it will keep that title for
more that a few weeks. I know of two candidates on the escarpment for
130' black oaks. Within ten yards of the black oak grows a sweetgum I
overlooked last winter. The 7'8.5" tree shadows the black oak at 135.3'
Adding chestnut oak to the above trees at 120', which there are multiple
candidates for, produces a Rucker Index of 138.4'. What single coves or
sites of comparably area support comparable indexes. Reducing the search
area in Station to around 50 acres would eliminate the tall white oaks and
reduce the index to about 136.5'. After measuring with a more accurate
rangefinder, the gap between Station cove and Belt Woods would be narrowed
significantly. Baxter Creek, Big Branch, and other coves in the Smokies
will probably produce higher indexes with either more species being
measured or time. The reference to the Congaree in the subject line comes
from including the area around Tamassee Knob in the computation of the
Rucker Index. One broad ridge separates Station Cove from the rest of the
Station Mountain escarpment and the bedrock is probably contiguous between
the sites, so I think treating the area as a single site is reasonable.
The taller tuliptree and pignut hickory around Tamassee Knob raise the
index slightly, but northern red oak and shortleaf pine have a much
greater effect on the index. With these species included, the Rucker
Index for the whole area becomes 142.76'. If I remember correctly, the
Rucker Index for the Congaree is around 142. Portions of the Congaree
still have higher mean canopy heights, and the Congaree has far more
voluminous trees; however, the Congaree's title of THE tall tree in South
Carolina. These comparisons are not intended to belittle any site, but to
point out the significance of Station Cove and the Station Mountain
escarpment. The area has been greatly underappreciated.
Any volunteers to help me document the Station Mountain escarpment or
Wadakoe Mountain, one of the few little explored sites with the potential
to be in the same league as the Station Mountain escarpment?

Jess Riddle
RE: Station Cove (Competition for Congaree?)   Leverett, Robert
  Nov 13, 2002 05:33 PST 

Very, very impressive. You've almost single-handedly put northern South Carolina on the tall tree-big tree map. The 141-foot white oak you measured becomes only one of a small handful to break 140 feet, of which I am aware. Another data point on the species.

I think you can now easily claim the height record for a bitternut hickory. Good show! We may be able to pull 140 feet out of Zoar Valley for the species and in New England, about 130 is going to prove to be the limit. Will has exceeded 150 in the Smokies, but his tree I think is more like 151 or 152.

I'm impressed with the tulip poplars. A South Carolina club of 160-footers is pretty exclusive. With 4 over 160, I's be willing to bet that you'll eventually measure to to 170.

With respect to your general observation, "The area has been greatly underappreciated", I'd sat that is an understatement on under-appreciation. When the northwestern corner is taken added to Congaree, South Carolina rises to become one of the top 3 tall tree states in the East - namely North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

ENTS definitely needs to arrange a South Carolina rendezvous to help you out. With all my hype over our northeastern tall tree forests, there you are in the Southeast, quietly going about your business of documenting what is turning out to be the #2 eastern tall tree area, second only to the Smokies!

Station Mountain    Jess
   Feb 02, 2003 14:09 PST 
I went back to Station Mountain yesterday to look at some areas I had
seen briefly last may. The tuliptrees were somewhat disappointing, but
are still fairly impressive considering they are growing on benches on a
steep east facing slope and not in a cove. The tall chestnut oaks are
growing in more sheltered areas, but may be under 75 years old. White
oaks and northern red oaks in the 120s are scattered throughout the area,
so I didn't take the time to measure them.   The escarpment still has a
few unexplored coves, and little of the area has been measured thoroughly.

Species cbh height
Hickory, pignut 6'11" 144.2'
Hickory, pignut 8'2" 145.8'
Oak, black 6'8" 120.2'
Oak, chestnut 5'9.5" 126.0'
Oak, chestnut 7'7" 140.3'
Oak, chestnut 7'9" 143.9'
Oak, northern red NA 117.3'
Oak, northern red NA 125.3'
Oak, northern red 7'3" 135.0'
Tuliptree 135.3'
Tuliptree 147.4'
Tuliptree 8'8" 147.7'
Tuliptree 7'5" 150.5'
Walnut, black 4'11.5" 121.5'

The tallest tuliptree is in Station Cove. The first live branch on the
tallest chestnut oak is at 73.3'. The tuliptrees that surround the tree
may keep forcing it upward.

Jess Riddle