Sycamore Land Trust

By Alexia Springer

How do you get a 200-year old tree that’s 15 feet across?

You start with a 2-year old tree that’s 15 millimeters across. And then you protect it. 

According to Indiana DNR’s website, “Of Indiana’s original 20 million acres of forest, fewer than 2,000 acres of old growth forests remain intact.” An old growth forest in Indiana contains trees 150-200 years old.

Old growth forests in Indiana:

  • Bendix Woods Nature Preserve – (St. Joseph County)
  • Donaldson’s Woods Nature Preserve – (Lawrence County)
  • McClue (Charles) Nature Preserve – (Steuben Co.)
  • Pine Hills Nature Preserve – (Montgomery Co.)
  • Rocky Hollow-Falls Canyon Nature Preserve – (Parke Co.)
  • Shrader-Weaver Nature Preserve – (Fayette Co.)
  • Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve – (Vanderburgh Co.)

In Indiana, a virgin forest is one that is untouched by human presence or unnatural disturbance. Virgin forests in Indiana:

  • Donaldson Woods
  • Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest
  • Wesselman Woods

Robert Ridgway wrote Charles C. Deam a letter in 1890, “Yes, although I have not been in Indiana on foot since 1890, I know that my old ‘stamping grounds’ have been completely transformed. In truth, it was knowledge of this fact, more than anything else, which induced me to establish my home here rather than at Mt. Carmel where I was born. The transformation is indeed more radical than could possibly be realized by anyone not familiar with the forests of the Wabash bottom as I knew them in the ‘seventies.’ Then there was scarcely a break from a little below Vincennes to near New Harmony, an exceedingly heavy virgin forest, some of the heaviest hardwood forest I have ever seen, covering almost the entire flood plain of the Wabash on the Indiana side. I am sending you some photographs, taken as late as 1888, showing the continuos character of those forests, though at the time the photographs were taken there had been considerable ‘culling’ of the best trees.

When it is considered that in the bottomland of the Lower Wabash all the conditions existed- deep, fertile, well-drained soils, with constant moisture, for the very best development of tree growth and that the stand (in the original forest) was so thick that the trees had to grow upward toward the sunlight, it is no wonder that many species grew to a height that seems impossible to some people.  My estimate was that the tree top line of the virgin forest along the Lower Wabash was not less than 100 feet and it may have been as mush as 120 feet. It was remarkably uniform, forming a practically straight, level line, with only here and there the dome-shaped top of some species which grew larger than most others, usually a sycamore, pecan a Schneck’s Oak, or tulip tree, lifted a little above the general level. One hundred feet high seems a marvelous height to many people; yet it is a fact that it doesn’t take very much of a tree to reach that height in a crowded forest.”

Sycamore Land Trust has been preserving land in Southern Indiana since 1990. Their mission is “to preserve the disappearing natural and agricultural landscape of southern Indiana.” Sycamore conserves land through ownership and conservation easements to limit harmful uses while allowing land to remain in private ownership. They also have an Environmental Education Program that helps instill the love of nature in our next generation.

Sycamore is one of the organizations Danielle and I will ride to support in September. It feels good to help an organization that is working to preserve our backyard. Find out more about them on their website: http://sycamorelandtrust.org.

The original old growth hardwood forests of Indiana covered nearly 87 percent of the state and furnished food and shelter for its settlers. A remnant of this forest on the Jennings farm in Scott County, Indiana, contained the giant tulip tree in the distance.
The original old growth hardwood forests of Indiana covered nearly 87 percent of the state and furnished food and shelter for its settlers. A remnant of this forest on the Jennings farm in Scott County, Indiana, contained the giant tulip tree in the distance.
Ridgway is pictured here standing in front of a Shumard Oak, noted as having a diameter of 6 feet with a 12 ft base.
Ridgway is pictured here standing in front of a Shumard Oak, noted as having a diameter of 6 feet with a 12 ft base.
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