Trees like this magnificent Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), which I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand on the Albright Grove loop trail in Smoky Mountain National Park…………….
………….come from these humble origins (Tulip seedling on the forest floor of my woodlot). While trees that become this massive undoubtedly benefit from fertile, well watered sites, long growing seasons, superior genetics, and a healthy degree of luck in avoiding drought, floods, hurricanes, pest infestations, and the like, the number one determining factor in their prevalence across the landscape is us—the choices we make, or don’t make, in managing woodlands. Patches of old-growth forest remain scattered across the northeast, nearly always in areas too difficult to access for logging in the days prior to mechanization. Occasionally, a patch was preserved due to the foresight of a landowner a century or more ago. Mostly, what we in the northeast can see of this type of tree growth comes in the form of individual specimens that were spared from the axe or saw because they grew in the hedgerows that divided cropfields or pastures—like the 34″ diameter White Oak (Quercus alba) that towers above the surrounding forest along the border of my woodlot and the neighboring farmer’s pastureland. Spending some time with these giants can help in reorienting our baseline conception of forest potential, and can remind us that forest management is a long-term endeavor.