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Old 04-23-2022, 10:53 AM   #1
montcalm's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 2,279
Gosnell Big Woods "Old Growth" Preserve

I took a short trip to this area yesterday to do some investigation and learn more about old growth in this region.

Here's a short description and location information:

This was not my first visit here, but I'll be quite honest my knowledge was much less the first time, and going back again, it's still quite lacking, but getting better.

What I noticed -

The area exhibits some so-called old growth characteristics such as:

1. Abundance of dead and downed wood. Most trees that were down were beech and hemlock although I saw some cherry.

2. All age classes of trees from very old to very young. I did not age anything although there were downed logs available to count. I found some info I'll link down below that did the heavy lifting for me there. Beech and hemlock confirmed to be up to 250 years old. There were a number of saplings around, mostly beech from what I saw. I did not see many seedlings but I did find one very new red maple seedling.

3. Dead standing snags. There were a number of these. Many beech, some ash (I believe) in the wet areas. But also a number of cherry and some hemlock.

4. Deep organic soils. This didn't exactly jibe. You aren't supposed to go off trail here, but I walked a little in the organic areas and they weren't all that deep. Perhaps this is a bit subjective. The base mineral soil was very sandy in most areas and likely deep loam.

I would say at least 3 out of 4 of those exist but the entire area is not consistent.

The "core" area where they have what's called the "lookout" is probably the oldest. It's largely, from what I could see, hemlock, beech and sweet birch (betula lenta). There was at least one red oak there, quite large, but probably no more than 150yo, and some other large trees that may have been tulip poplar (I need to go back with leaves or flowers). I found hickory nuts and walnuts on the ground in the vicinity but I really couldn't tell for certain where they came from. Other sources state old basswood, but I did not see those - perhaps they were further off-trail where I didn't venture.

As you walk along the trail you dip to a low spot where red maples start popping up and then quickly climb up a ridge - only about 30' or so in elevation, but the forest starts changing drastically. You start to notice cherry and sugar maples and quite a strong presence of red oak. Eventually you top out and stay up high around a number of small depressions and mild slopes. It's now mainly beech and red oak but with scattered cherry and few maples, red and sugar. The sweet birch are still present but less abundant.

Here I found some interesting trees, quite large, which I think are cucumber magnolias. There's also a stand of tulip poplar here I read from another source, but I think they are off trail a bit.

Based on other sources - it's speculated that this region is not really all that old. Although I don't know, it may still be representative of this forest type in a drier soil. I'm not convinced that red oak isn't a major component of forests in this part of the world, particularly in elevated areas.

What I tended to notice was as the site was lower and more mesic (wetter) that there was more hemlock and some red maple as opposed to cherry and red oak on the higher ground.

I was a little surprised to see very little sugar maple though - I figure this would be more of a dominant component, but it really was not. There are a few very large, and likely old sugar maple here, but only a couple in a 100 acres. I only saw a handful more and they were much smaller.

Here's a link to a more scientific report. I'll post some pics in a bit:

Last edited by montcalm; 04-23-2022 at 12:37 PM..
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