Tamassee Knob revisted   Jess Riddle
  Mar 22, 2004 19:57 PST 

On the 13th of the month I went back to the Tamassee Knob area to recheck
the height on the tuliptree I measured two years ago at 169.1' and to
measure some of the other tuliptrees in the same small grove. The grove,
in the northwestern corner of SC, is situated at the intersection of the
escarpment on the east side of station mountain and the east-west running
ridge that leads out to Tamassee Knob itself. The south side of the ridge
maintains about a 30 degree slope and rises roughly 200 feet above the
floor of the cove while the steep side of Station Mountain varies between
approximately 20 and 35 degrees and in that section rises about 300 feet.
Part of the grove occurs on the floor of the cove, which slopes less than
ten degrees, but stays close to the steep slopes. Scattered tall tulips
grow elsewhere on the floor and one of the two tallest known shortleaf
pines inhabits the area, but that more open part of the cove is more
disturbed by wind and has a very uneven canopy. Some windthrow also occurs
on the south side of the ridge, so the dense cluster of tuliptrees
occupies more of the slope of Station Mountain. The area of the grove
probably does not exceed five acres.

In the immediate area, other hardwoods have difficulty competing in the
overstory with the tuliptrees. Lone sweetgum, white ash, bitternut
hickory, and northern red oak hold spaces in the canopy. Upslope, oaks,
particularly chestnut oak, play a much greater role in the canopy, and a
couple of slippery elms in a more open area separate one tuliptree form
the rest of the stand. Also along the periphery of the stand, grape vines
ascend many of the tuliptrees and smaller trees. The understory is quite
open in the middle of the area with only a few red mulberry, which show
crown dieback and in adjacent areas, flowering dogwood. The solitary
spicebush in the area was in full bloom as were the elms and at least
three species of vilolets. However, bloodroot and Trillium cuneatum, were
by far the most abundant wildflowers in the cove at this time of year.

For a second growth cove, ages of canopy trees in this stand vary
surprisingly greatly. Bark characteristics vary from tight, uniform
weaves to furrows over an inch deep with a few ridges braking off.
Similarly, some of the crowns are asymmetrical and beginning to show
individual distinctions, but many other trees show remarkably juvenile
crown structure for their diameters. Some trees in the stand have no
major branching for over 100' feet while others retain small,
approximately horizontal limbs arching away from the trunk below the point
of major branching. Based on these characteristics, many of the tallest
trees appear between 100 and 125 years old, but a few appear under 75
years old.

Previously measured trees in the stand include a sweetgum 4'5" x 141.4'
and tuliptrees 8'4.5" x 160.9', 14'3" x 156.8', and 169.1'. A full
description of the largest tuliptree, which does not appear older than
other trees in the grove, is included in a post from November '03.

Species Height Cbh Comment
Mulberry, Red 49.5' 3'3" slightly separated from tulips. Only live one of
any size
Oak, N. Red 136.6' 7'11"
Oak, Post 98.5' 4'4.5" Different cove
Tuliptree 153.2' 8'4"
Tuliptree 153.7' 5'7"
Tuliptree 155.3' 7'3"
Tuliptree 155.9' 8'8"
Tuliptree 156.0' 5'6.5"
Tuliptree 156.8' 10'3" Probably Has higher top
Tuliptree 158.2' 7'4.5"
Tuliptree 158.9' 8'11" slightly separated from rest of grove
Tuliptree 159.4' 6'8.5"
Tuliptree 160.2' 8'5.5" Previously measured @160.9'
Tuliptree 163.8' 7'8.5" Longest shot of day
Tuliptree 168.3' 9'3.5" Extensive rot in trunk, well formed top
Tuliptree 168.5' 8'3.5" 2nd top 167.1', multiple arching present.
Tuliptree 170.2' 7'5" Previously measured @169.1'

I am quite pleased with the confirmation of the tallest tree in the grove.
My three measurements of the height were 167.8', 170.15', and 170.33'.
The highest points on the tree appear to occur in a single vertical plane
with the two highest twigs differing in height by about two feet. One
twig represent the end of the main trunk while the other twig is an
upturned branch that originates about 15 feet from the end of the main
trunk. The rest of the crown is quite symmetrical except for a kink in the
trunk that is probably between 130' and 140'. I doubt any branch on the
tree reaches eight inches in diameter, and the bark shows no balding
whatever. The tree stands on the floor of the cove right next to the
ephemeral streambed that comes down from the intersection of the two

The tree know has the edge on the title of tallest tree in the state, but
five other trees have been measured within two feet of the most recent
height, and a deceased pine in the Congaree was a full three feet taller.
Hence, the grove as a whole probably has greater significance. The stand
contains the tallest known hardwoods in the east outside of the Smokies as
well as the highest hardwood canopy outside of the park. The mix of ages
also makes me optimistic that, barring some catastrophic wind event, the
stand should be able to maintain comparable or greater heights for some
time to come.

Jess Riddle
Re: Tamassee Knob revisted   dbhg-@comcast.net
  Mar 23, 2004 03:46 PST 


   Your detailed description of Tamassee Knob-Station Mountain cove and its superb stand of trees is one of the best I've ever read. Simply, one of the best. The picture you paint is crystal clear and loaded with information on tree form and age structure and the precise details of your measurements. It is fitting that this superb South Carolina mountain forest should be described in the finest detail. We are very fortunate to have you as part of ENTS and the cornerstone of our measurement capability in northwestern South Carolina. Oh yes, and congratulations on breaking the 170-foot threshold for tulip tree in South Carolina. It appears that tulip hits its upper limit at 170 to 180 and the odds of us finding taller ones is small. There are plenty of old growth specimens in the Smokies and Joyce Kilmer and we just don't find them breaking 180.