Courtesy of Dale Luthringer, Cook Forest State Park Naturalist:
It is with great regret that I inform you that both the Longfellow Pine & the Seneca Pine succumbed to a microburst on 4 May 2018.
A fast moving microburst came through the area early Friday evening with winds reported near 70 mph. Firsthand accounts state the duration of severe heavy wind in the park was likely a mere 5 minutes. I was in Erie at the time [and] spoke to a park patron on the trails on Monday, who was from Toronto where his high rise work building experienced winds in the 120km/hr range resulting in several windows being blown out.
Many tall pines are down, and to conduct a complete assessment will take time, but a preliminary brief cruise of trails in the heart of the Cathedral note mostly all recently felled trees suffered trunk failures, with most trunk failures being at the 40-60 ft height range. There are still two tall upper 160 ft class pines standing near where the Longfellow was that I haven’t measured in close to 10 years. Maybe one of them might make 170. The Burl King (~11 x ~160), located a stone’s throw NW of the Longfellow appears to have come down in either one of last year’s May 2017 microburst events.
The Cornstalk Pine (~14 x ~135) adjacent to the Seneca Pine is still standing, but appears to have lost some of its crown. I’m hoping the Cook Pine (~12 x ~165) is still standing.
So as it stands, the current tallest pine in Cook Forest and PA is one between the Seneca & Mohawk Trail last measured at 9.6 x 170.5 several years ago. The current statistics I have for the PA state champ would have to reside at Heart’s Content, ANF, with the Heart’s Content Pine, last measured at 12.9ft CBH x 160.5ft high. I will be measuring the Heart’s Content Pine in a couple weeks due to programming being held their soon. It’ll take me some time to see the Cook Pine to check on its current status.
We are looking at getting cross sections for both the Longfellow and Seneca Pine. The Longfellow’s cross section will have to be taken at over 60ft up from its base, but the Seneca’s should prove more fruitful with a cross section that should come from the 20-25ft height range.
At their greatest dimensions, the best I’ve been able to do for both trees were:
- Longfellow Pine = 11.2ft CBH x 184.7ft high (previous tallest tree known north of the Great Smoky Mountains
- Seneca Pine = 12.6ft CBH x 174.1ft high (previous Pennsylvania State Champ)
Both the Longfellow and Seneca have been in decline for years. The Longfellow was still putting on height, but close to 20% of its bark circumference had rotted near the base. The Seneca Pine was in much worse shape, with thinning crown and near 50% of its bark circumference rotted near the base.
Even in death these massive trees tell a story and serve a purpose. Still, it is sad to see these monarchs pass into the next stage of the forest cycle. Nothing or no one lives forever. Something we all need to be reminded of from time to time.
The mantel for tallest tree in the Northeast now passes to Cook Forest’s sister, the Mohawk Trail State Forest [in NW Massachusetts].