Tall tulips in Sumter NF   Jess Riddle
  Nov 08, 2003 19:40 PST 

Today I had planned to measure all of the canopy dominant trees in a
relatively small, east-facing cove near Tamassee Knob in the northwest
corner of SC that I first visited a couple of years ago. When I reached
the cove, I realized far more 140'+ tuliptrees grow in the cove than I had
remembered, and I did not have enough energy to start such an undertaking
today. I also noticed that the trees are not uniformly tall, and the
canopy includes scattered, storm battered trees only around 110' tall. I
decided to focus on locating and measuring those 150' tuliptrees that I
had missed on my first trip through the area. My first visit seems to
have gotten more of the tallest trees than I had expected, but the cove
still had several interesting surprises. I remembered seeing some areas
choked with Vitis spp. vines, but I did not realize the extent to which
vines are abundant throughout the cove. The vines include Vitis spp. (up
to 15" cbh, 21" in adjacent cove), greenbriers, other briars, honeysuckle,
poison ivy, and virginia creeper (up to 13" cbh), and the vines thrive
both climbing trees and in canopy gaps. I also overlooked the several
slippery elms scattered throughout the cove on my first visit. Shortleaf
pine is also more widespread in the cove than I recollected, and I managed
to measure the tallest looking one that vines obscured on the other visit.
I also took time to visit both of the adjacent coves. I had not visited
the one to the south, which has a partial north aspect, but it turned out
to be considerably drier and younger than the outer cove. Most trees in
this cove appeared roughly 70 years old as do the trees on the north
facing slope of the main cove I looked at. Most of the larger trees in
the central cove look to be in the 100 to 125 year age class, and a few
smaller diameter stumps from the past few decades are scattered amongst
them. The cove adjacent on the other side has a similar age structure and
is home to the tallest confirmed tuliptree in the state. Today I
primarily looked at the areas of the cove not in the immediate vicinity of
the tallest tree, which is a younger but better sheltered area.
On my way out of that cove, I confirmed that my eyes are still not that
finely attuned to judging height. I finally measured a large tuliptree
that I have often admired from the trail on top of the ridge. The tree
has always caught my attention with both its diameter and its structure.
The tree has a generally candelabra like form. The several main branches
reach upward at about a 45 degree angle from the trunk then tern more
vertical, but still angle outward slightly. The central part of the crown
follows the same pattern, but is generally more vertical. Consequently
the upper part of the crown is composed of dozens of two to six inch
diameter, fairly uniform, more or less vertical branches. Given this
broad crown, I assumed the tree was about twelve feet cbh by one hundred
thirty-something feet tall making it one of the larger trees in the area.
Wrong. When I finally went up to the base of the tree, the circumference
turned out to be 14'3", only slightly inflated by root bulge on the steep
slope. Shooting vertically with the rangefinder also but the height at
well over 150'. Shooting from a distance and using a clinometer I got
156.8'. This measurement is probably to one of several branches of
approximately equal height. A slightly higher top is likely hidden
farther back in the crown. The uniformity of the crown and the bark to
not suggest that this tree is unusually old for the area. This tree may
be genetically predisposed towards rapid growth and been lucky with storms
so far. The size and structure of the crown may allow for moderate future
height growth and continued rapid radial growth; until a major storm hits
this moderately sheltered tree. The steep slope and huge sail area of the
crown hurt the tree long term chances.

The numbers
Species Cbh Height comments
Oak, White 6'7" 129.1' In drier cove
Pine, Shortleaf 6'11" 128.4'
Pine, Shortleaf 6'4" 134.9'
Pine, Shortleaf 6'1" 139.96' Persistence paid off
Sweetgum 4'5" 141.4' 100:1 H:D
Tuliptree 10'2" 132.7' Warming up equipment
Tuliptree NA 142.6' Drier Cove
Tuliptree 8'2.5" 144.1'
Tuliptree 7'0" 150.1' Younger area
Tuliptree 9'6" 150.5'
Tuliptree 9'5" 151.8'
Tuliptree 14'3" 156.8' See above description
Tuliptree 8'7" 159.0'
Tuliptree Twin 160.5'
Tuliptree 8'10" 162.5'
Walnut, Black 9'0" 131.8'

Three separate coves at Tamassee Knob are now known to support 130'
shortleaf pines. The 139.96' tree now moves into a tie with one in the
last cove that I visited today that I have measured from 139.4' to 140.3'.
The sweetgum grows near the tallest tuliptree; unfortunately, all other
sweetgums in the cove are under two inches dbh. The surrounding
tuliptrees are really forcing this tree to grow vertically. Crown spread
is probably only about 20' and epicormic branches cover the trunk down to
about eight feet.
The tuliptree tally for the Tamassee Knob coves is up to 22 over 150'.
The two new 160' trees are particularly satisfying. When the densely
packed acre around the current state record tuliptree is measured we
should have several more 150' tulips and potentially a couple of new 160'
trees. The real hope for that area is that the current record tree has
grown past 170' over that past two years.
The big black walnut was a surprise to me. I've seen three other walnuts
in the area over 120', but all of them are 4'11" cbh plus or minus one
inch. This walnut is probably the most massive forest grown individual of
the species I have seen.

Jess Riddle
Re: Tall tulips in Sumter NF   Don Bertolette
  Nov 08, 2003 20:12 PST 

Re "virginia creeper (up to 13" cbh)"...what's the ENTS database upper
Re: Tall tulips in Sumter NF (Virginia Creeper)    Jess Riddle
   Nov 09, 2003 04:29 PST 

Most of the larger virginia creepers I've seen have been in floodplains.
Congaree Swamp NM has them up to at least 14" cbh. I'm not sure what
others have found for the species. I don't think we as a group have
focused on virginia creeper much at all.