Field Notes: A Rare Tree Adventure

By Emerald Ash Borer Coordinator Meredith Bean

It was August 27, very late in the season to be treating ash for protection against the emerald ash borer (EAB), and we were about to do just that. With the state’s most active “Big Tree hunter” as our guide through the swamps of Cypress Bridge Natural Area Preserve, we hopped into canoes to find the largest Carolina ash trees on record in Virginia. Along the way, we drifted through lily pad patches and marveled at the resilience of swamp trees as they survive in feet of water year-round.

Lara Johnson (urban and community forestry program manager) and Byron Carmean (champion tree hunter) canoeing among the water tupelos and cypresses.

With a little searching, we finally found the two champion Carolina ash (Fraxinus caroliniana) trees and immediately started measuring and treating. They must have been thirsty because they took the insecticide right up! Each tree may not be larger than 20 inches in diameter nor look nearly as remarkable as their neighbors, but they are just as critically endangered as the giant cypresses surrounding them.

Meredith Bean (emerald ash borer coordinator) and Meghan Mulroy (community forester) treating the #1 state champion Carolina ash with emamectin benzoate via microinjection.
Lara Johnson and Byron Carmean with the champion Carolina ash post-treatment.

While emerald ash borer has not yet been confirmed in Southampton county, proactively treating specimen ash trees is the best method to ensure their survival for the inevitable day they are attacked. To find out more about this destructive pest and VDOF’s EAB program, please see our StoryMaps.

Many thanks to the Department of Conservation and Recreation Natural Heritage Program for preserving this ecosystem and allowing us to treat the Carolina ash, and to Byron Carmean for the awe-inspiring tour!

Byron Carmean standing in the hollow trunk of a healthy cypress.
Knees of a giant cypress that are taller than Lara Johnson on dry land!

More Information

Big Tree Registry

DCR Natural Heritage – Cypress Bridge

VDOF Emerald Ash Borer StoryMaps

Carolina Ash Characteristics

Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today? March 6, 2018

Big Trees and Little Trees

by Area Forester Lisa Deaton


oak and house

Lately we have been recertifying trees for the Virginia Big Tree Register.  Trees on this register are checked every ten years to see if they are still alive, and if so, remeasured.  The swamp chestnut oak above is located in Mathews County.  It is 6.5 feet in diameter and 96 feet tall

We have also recently encountered a number of big trees that are not on the register yet.

Wezensky poplar

The yellow-poplar above (also called tulip poplar and tulip tree) is in the middle of a 40 year old pine forest, but within view of the owner’s house.

The same landowner has a tree that he and his granddaughter have named the Rest Stop Tree (below).

Rest Stop Tree

It is a yellow-poplar that fell over sideways early in its life, and the side branches started growing upwards.  The tree serves as a favorite rest stop during family walks.  Trees that are special for any reason can be nominated to the Remarkable Trees of Virginia Project.

Meanwhile, it is reforestation time, and very hardworking crews have arrived in Virginia to plant loblolly and shortleaf pine seedlings in cutovers.

planting crew

These men have traveled from Guatemala and Mexico to work in the southeastern U.S. for planting season.  Each man plants about 3,700 trees per day. lob-seedling.jpg