Total Pageviews

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Oldest Hardwoods in America

Tucked away in perched deep, peaty swamps throughout southern N.H. are pockets of one of the Granite State’s rarest forest communities, dominated by black gum and red maple. Common names include blackgum, tupelo, or as they say on the Massachusetts Islands, beetlebung, which is named for its wood used to make mallet handles (beetles), to plug barrel holes (bungs). Blackgum is a curious species of hardwood tree. They are inherently slow growing with a broad range and wide tolerances, but seldom grow in great abundance. They have a clonal growth type with self pruning branches, both of which have protected them from past devastating hurricanes. They have undesirable wood prone to rotting and can grow in wetlands, which likely protected some from the axe. I’ve seen them grow with hefty girth in Appalachian oak communities on ridge-tops in Ohio, and coastal swamps of Martha’s Vineyard. The populations below located at Kuncanowet Town Forest and Fox State Forest are some of the oldest hardwoods in the country. In fact, the oldest hardwood tree is a leviathan blackgum near 700 years old recently found on private land in a town nearby. The trees pictured below are between 400-650 years old, having sprouted around the time of the Renaissance!