Relict forests


I’ve been exploring areas of relict forest here in Alabama trying to understand the species that hang on for thousands of years while dying out elsewhere. One such area is here where I live with large numbers of Canadian Hemlock still growing. This is a relict population left over from the last ice age. Hemlock adelgid is decimating trees throughout the eastern U.S. so populations will disappear over the next few dozen years.

There is also a relict population roughly centered on Selma Alabama that includes a large number of Carya Myristiciformis. I searched through the woods south of Selma on the Dallas/Wilcox county line and found a few dozen trees plus several scattered trees throughout the area. There are also a large number of Southern Sugar Maple aka Acer Floridanum in that area. I am not knowledgeable about oak species but there are several including a few I have never seen before. One that I am familiar with is Swamp White Oak which I have seen several trees and found acorns the size of ping pong balls.

I searched diligently for American Chestnut sprouts but so far have not found any surviving. I know they grew in the area 150 years ago so it is probable a few of them are still alive.

Anyone else interested in rare forest species that are vital for wildlife but mostly ignored in the modern world?


AL state champion Swamp Chestnut oak grew on my family’s farm just outside of Auburn.
I couldn’t find it last time I was there a decade or so ago, shortly after the farm sold for residential development.
It was in the Saugatchee Creek bottom floodplain/swamp, so I’m pretty sure it didn’t fall to bulldozers, but may have just died of old age…or hopefully, I just didn’t look in the right spot…privet and sweet gum had pretty well overtaken everything…


Had two chestnuts in the woods on this KY farm when we moved here in '94. One died a few years later. I need to clear a couple of spots nearby and plant some pollenizers.

I’m a bur oak enthusiast…supposedly native to AL only in a small pocket of Montgomery Co., but I’ve never found anyone who knew where…
Lots of Q.macrocarpa on the Auburn campus, but who knows their provenance? I have a clone of one from the vet school campus that makes acorns that run 6-8/lbs, with cap removed!


( “I’m a bur oak enthusiast”)
Found this one, “bur oak”, last year. Exit 115 off I 64 near Lexington Ky.
I am standing in a mc Donald’s parking lot taking the photo.,exit ramp 50 ft behind tree ,surrounded by cleared farm land- development .
At least they left her standing… A relict of the past for sure !
I just LOVE big old trees !


A white oak near McMinnville,Tn.


[/quote] @fusion- power
(“trying to understand the species that hang on for thousands of years while dying out elsewhere.”)

I think it’s so cool you do this.
I have been fascinated by this also. Here in Wv. There are many relict forest ( also high altitude bogs) were there are small populations of trees ( and other plants) that only live in a small area on a mountain top. ( or valley )Often you can walk or drive all day and not see another like it.


[quote=“Fusion_power, --( " One that I am familiar with is Swamp White Oak which I have seen several trees and found acorns the size of ping pong balls.”)
I would like to get some scion wood from a ping pong ball size white oak.
I have never grafted an oak before … Got any. .?

I did find these acorns in the Sierra madre in Mexico , biggest I have seen,
I would say big as a hens egg

Don’t know what sp.? No I did not bring any back.( This was at the beginning of a long trip south.)
This was one of the best botanical walks ever.
Started at San Jose on top of the mountain to walk out…was in pine/ fir forest.then oak hickory walnut etc. by the end of the day ,at the bottom of the mountain , it looked like full on tropical stuff. I took a trail down the valley to the right of the road. Really cool stuff !
Found those big acorns near the top of mountain in the photo ,if you want to go find them.
This is a large biosphere reserve area, ( El Cielo ) very interesting area botanically .near Queretaro ,mex.


On the Carya myristiciformis did you find any nuts? I was able to pick up about 8 pounds of nuts this year. however they are small and I do not know the quality.


The squirrels beat me to the myristiciformis nuts. One large tree had produced an abundant crop, The leaf litter was torn up from squirrels and deer. I was hoping to find a few pounds.

I have a couple hundred black walnuts from the same area that might be worth sending to you. Let me know if interested, you can have them if you want.


This tree died but was fully healthy when this photo was taken in 2013. A core sample while it was living put it at 275 or more years old. Near Petersburg, IL.

It was said that prehistoric times in North America that The Wabash Valley in IL had bigger trees than the Redwoods. Taxodium distichum Bald cypress) was there but no-longer is. It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that in the middle of IL on the Wabash River had larger trees than anywhere else. Of course if you’ve done any reading about Dawn Redwood it was everywhere in North America and all over the globe as far north as Antarctica. It must have been magical is all I can say.



I’ve got grafted clones of the two national co-champion bur oaks…one in the McBaine Bottoms near Columbia MO, and the other at Airdrie Stud in Woodford Co KY. I’ve seen both ortets in person.
Grafting oaks is straightforward, and not significantly different from doing most fruit trees.
The white oak group is pretty compatible across species, but the red/black group sometimes have some graft incompatibilities that lead to delayed graft failures


Fusion_power: Have you ever interacted with Scott Thomas of Thomas Nursery in McMinnville, TN? He is specializing in propagating native species and is well connected with other growers in the region. He is involved with the efforts to reintroduce the hybridized American Chestnut back and would likely be most interested in trying to grow any rare natives you might come across for possible select replants.


In Arizona they have populations of Sycamores Plantanus Wrighti I think, left over from when the area was wet. I believe that the petrified forest is of these trees.


There used to be a small patch of Bald Cypress here along the train tracks, probably not more than 40 years old… no older than the tracks for sure, less than a mile across the PA border. Then maybe 5 years ago the trail derailed right there and they razed the whole area cleaning the mess up. A far as I can find those were the northernmost Bald Cypresses.


Nice new field guide to oaks ~ 50 sp. good range maps by county , key in back. I like it.
Did not know there were so many.

Also found this book;

Oak: the frame of civilization.

Read some on line, going to order one, looks good.


Just noticed there is a free on line PDF of the oak feild guide, an older edition , but maybe mostly the same


I was back down in the Wilcox county area today looking around and found a few hickory trees worth the effort. In an area smaller than a football field, I found 3 different species of hickory growing. All were large old trees up to 2 feet diameter. I can’t be 100% positive of the ID without leaves to verify some characteristics. One group of trees is almost certainly Carya Glabra. Another is most likely Mockernut. The third is probably Carya Myristiciformis. I was able to collect a handfull of the Carya Glabra nuts and a few of the C. Myristiciformis. I’m not interested in Mockernut as it is the most common hickory in this region.


Nova Scotia, just south of me, has the largest sweet chestnut in Canada (dentata). It’s a huge old tree, dwarfs a car. It also has some of the oldest chestnuts, two known to be over 200 years and two suspected to be over 300. The older two have not been cored, to my knowledge. Most of these are single trees, so depend on handpollinations or grafts to make nuts.
biggest sweet chestnut in Canada…


my stepson just moved to cole harbor, NS last year. where are these trees located in NS? would love to go see them when we go visit.


Contact me at
I’ll give you good directions so you can find it. It is a lovely old tree, and you would probably enjoy seeing it :slight_smile:
I’m not going to put the directions on a public forum as some folks want to cut it down so that it will throw up stump sprouts which are juvenile tissue which can be tissue cultured. You would then have a stump with some sprouts, instead of a lovely old tree. There is a successful graft off it at U of Guelph, in their breeding program, and several private breeders have a graft off it too. Emblings have already been created from an open pollinated nut from a graft off it. If left alone, or cloned non destructively, folks can enjoy it for the next 300 years or so :slight_smile: