Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hickory Down

I took a break from cleaning up storm damage near the house and peaked into the woods to see what changes the high winds had made.  A complete inventory will have to wait for another day.  I just wanted to get an idea of the number of trees that couldn’t stand up to the wind.  Much of the Blue Jay Barrens woods is bounded to the north by neighboring woods. The exception is one section of ridge line where the neighboring woods was clear cut about 20 years ago.  With that woodland gone, there’s nothing to buffer storms approaching from that direction.  Since that section of woods was the most vulnerable to wind damage, that’s where I went.  As soon as I entered the woods, I ran into the top of a large Pignut Hickory.

The first thing I noticed was the abundance of nuts produced by this fallen tree.  The nuts here along with those scattered across the woodland floor represent a lot of food that won’t be available to squirrels this winter.  Earlier in the year I mentioned the expanding squirrel population and the die-off that would result if the mast crop was low.  It looks like things have just gotten worse for all those squirrels we have running around.

My measurements showed that the tree stood a little more than 110 feet tall.  The top was too bent and broken to be certain of the actual terminus.  Hickories are not very common in these woods, so I was sorry to lose this one.

The outer wood was still pliable enough to bend as the tree fell. All indications are that this tree was perfectly healthy.  It just couldn’t stand up to the winds.

This hickory had its roots firmly anchored, so there was no danger of it just tipping over.  The force of the wind snapped it off about seven feet above the ground.

Several small Sugar Maples were caught beneath the falling trunk.  The maples grew here in response to openings in the forest canopy create by trees that fell many years ago.  More saplings resulted than could ever survive, so losing a few now benefits the rest.

Loss of the hickory creates one more opportunity for sunlight to enter the woods.  Despite the frequently falling trees, the health of this woodland is improving.  When I bought the property, the woods had very little ground cover and almost no understory.  Several high grade timber cuts had been made during the previous 70 years.  Each cut removed the valuable lumber and left the misshapen trees.  This, combined with cattle grazing the woods, produced a woods composed of tall, crooked trees in an almost urban park-like setting.  Each fallen tree leaves space for seedlings to grow into saplings.  The woods is slowly developing an understory of shrubs and small trees.  It should be quite impressive in another 100 years.


  1. Well, the loss of the Hickory is your Bar-B-Qs gain.

    On another note: Look forwards to your photos of what takes it's place.



  2. Hi Kevin. That tree would certainly fire a lot of grills.