24 November, 2008

"Dude...that's an arm" -Matt G., Joyce Kilmer Forest - 11.23.08

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Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest- Hemlock and Tulip Poplar

Matt and I made the 3.5 hour trek to this magnificent forest just west of Robbinsville, NC yesterday to see possibly the largest remaining grove of old growth Tulip Poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) in the world. It was well worth the drive!

We measured quite a few trees- mostly Tulip Poplars, but also an oak and hemlock for kicks. The Tulip Poplars are the ones that really floor you though. Some of these trees are upwards of 400 years old! Here are some quick numbers we got:

Liriodendron tulipifera: Diameter(ft), Circumference(ft)
6.9**, 21.7
6.5, 20.4
5.9, 18.4
5.6, 17.8
4.2, 13.2

**that's just shy of 7 FEET in diameter 4.5 feet up the trunk** you could probably drive my FIT through that!!

Tsuga canadensis: 3.7, 11.8

Quercus falcata (?): 4.4, 13.7

I just can't get enough of these pictures, and yet they still don't do justice to the size of these relic trees!
these "twin" giants were exactly the same diameter and could have (theoretically) germinated the same year- around 300-400 years ago! Some scientists think there was a catastrophic event around 1550 that leveled the forest and allowed for the diverse seed bank to start this giant forest at that time.

another medium size Tulip Poplar

Matt in awe

there were enormous downed logs like this all over the place supporting an entire ecosystem on their trunks- lichen, mosses, ferns, shrubs, small trees, fungus, even a baby hemlock tree amongst a clump of ferns and club-moss

isn't this a huge birch root that Matt is trekking up?!

forest view

robot loving tree huggers

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lichen in a fallen (dead) hemlock branch

you have to wonder what aerial ecosystem exists in the canopies and branches of these ancient hemlocks. little research has been done to my knowledge. researchers just started visiting the tops of these trees in the last 10-15 years, mostly to measure them and help provide more reason for protecting them... after reading The Wild Trees it sure makes me want to know more about the canopies of our eastern temperate rainforest trees!

This is a hemlock on it's last leg

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) has decimated this forest- even after a release of predator beetles a few years back. It's truly sad to see these forest giants quickly go the way of the Chestnut trees. And only humans are to blame.

only a few needles (at best) were left on most hemlocks

while I was admiring the main trunk of this Tulip Poplar, I heard Matt say "...that's an arm". That was the very moment he realized the log he was walking on was actually a fallen branch from the monster Tulip Poplar- not another fallen trunk of a tree!

Temp's had been pretty cold leading up to our adventure (single digits a few days back) as evidenced by these frozen rhododendron roots in Little Santeetlah Creek.

knarly branches

me in awe

a medium sized one

some trees were so big that going around them was a hike in itself

forest view on the way out.

What a great day!

To find your way to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, visit this site:


Matt said...

yeeeaahh! thanks for awesome trip!

Kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate said...

These are great photos! So what is the catastrophic event that might have happened to level that forest in 1550? A fire? disease?

(yeah, had to delete my first comment--I'm a wretched speller)

M. D. Vaden of Oregon said...

You mentioned The Wild Trees book.

Ever seen pics or video of the trees and groves mentioned ??

Try this page ...

Largest Redwood Trees - Grove of Titans

Same redwoods - but in color. See albums.