Tamassee Knob's east end   Jess Riddle
  Mar 02, 2005 20:19 PST 

A few weeks ago, Will Blozan and I set out for a previously unexplored
cove just east of Tamassee Knob. Unfortunately, some equipment
difficulties prevented us from collecting the usual plethora of
measurements, but the additional exploration of the area was as always
rewarding. The visit allowed Will to confirm that the ash in the area are
green ash, a typically bottomland species that ascends to the top of the
main ridge line at the site and should reach 140' next year. Will also
spied a higher top on the tallest pignut in the area, which was previously
measured to 159'; another measurement is needed to confirm just how far
above 160' the tree is. Remeasurement of a picture perfect northern red
oak in a nearby cove proved even more productive.   Three years ago the
tree was essentially tied for tallest known northern red oak at 143.8',
but more recent finds have surpassed the tree. Remeasurement tentatively
puts the tree at 153' allowing it to regain a share of the title of
tallest known northern red oak. The great increase in the height over the
past few years is probably a combination of both growth and finding a
higher top. A drier subcove next to the northern red oak contained what
appeared to be a pair of well formed and rapidly growing black gums.
However, after staring at the twigs for several seconds we realized they
were some unusual oak. Further inspection revealed them to be saul's oak,
the white chestnut hybrid. Both trees easily exceed 100' already, and,
barring storms and new discoveries, should be hybrid height champs within
a few years.

Those and other trees greatly slowed our progress towards our target cove,
but that cove turned out to have the oak dominance typical of the area
without any record contenders. However, a smaller adjacent cove, which I
had entirely ignored when dividing the area into regions for record
keeping purposes, turned out to be a true gem. The little cove forms out
of a split in an east facing ridge at about 1300' elevation, and descends
to 1040' where it flows off of Forest Service property and out into the
piedmont. The steep slope at the west end of the cove gives way to a low,
level ridge that partitions the gentler, lower part of the cove. Oaks
dominate the entire cove over a generally open understory with a few
hickories mixed in on the upper slopes, and shortleaf pine and tuliptree
scattered about the lower reaches. Black oak is probably the most
abundant species on the upper slopes and white oak on the lower; scarlet
and northern red oaks are much scarcer in that particular cove. When we
entered the small cove, we were immediately greeted by the site of a
towering, arrow straight white oak. The young, 8'4" tree grew higher up
the slope than would be expected for an exceptionally tall tree, but
initial measurements put the tree well over 140', likely the tallest known
white oak in the state (the current record is a 143.1' tree on the
Whitewater River). A larger white oak, 10'10" x 130'+, is growing rapidly
lower down in the cove. Other tall oaks in the cove include an
approximately 130' black oak, a scarlet oak around 125', a northern red
oak over 140', and a 132.7' chestnut oak, so the cove probably has five oak
species over 125'.

Cbh Height Species
NA 126.6' Ash, Green
NA 135.0' Hickory, Pignut
8'8" 133.0' Oak, Black
NA 135.5'+ Oak, Northern Red
9'+ 123.4' Oak, Scarlet
5'9" 135.5' Oak, White
NA 156.3' Tuliptree
NA 164.4' Tuliptree

The scarlet oak in the list is a remeasurement of a tree adjacent to the
northern red oak described above. As of three years ago, the black oak
listed above was four inches smaller in circumference, and the white oak
was three inches smaller; hence, the trees around Tamassee Knob continue
to sustain rapid growth.

Jess Riddle