Rocky River and North Chagrin Hemlocks
I had the day off from work again to take my Dad to his follow up appointment for his cataract surgery. To kill some time before the appointment, I decided to visit the Rocky River Reservation as well as a couple of Metro Parks on the east side of town and hunt for some hemlocks I haven't seen before. For those of you that don't know, Cleveland is split into an east and west side by the Cuyahoga River. For a long time, saying you lived on one side of town versus the other was like saying you lived on the other side of the planet. With the advent of the modern interstate, the east side west side difference is pretty much a moot point, but some people still make a big deal about it.
On the west side in the Rocky River Reservation, eastern hemlocks exist, but are fairly sparse. There are no large stands and they are peppered throughout the park on hillsides. Some are naturally occurring, and some appear planted. Either way, they are not a dominant tree. Today, I found a nice waterfall with some hemlocks surrounding it. It was a sight I had not seen before. There were some fairly tall trees and some young trees near it, but I didn't see any new saplings. The only hemlock sapling I've seen an that park is near the nature center and I documented in an earlier blog post. The ones around the falls were fairly twisted and looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. There were a couple of tall and straight ones near by a also. I'm going to guess they were around 80 feet tall. They were near the bottom of the valley, so they probably have the potential to get much taller.
On the east side, the eastern hemlocks in the North Chagrin Reservation seem to be thriving. I followed the valley downstream from Buttermilk Falls and was pleased to see eastern hemlocks of all sizes and ages. Some were tall mature trees, and I also found saplings only 5 or 6 inches tall. This population doesn't seem to be having any issues reproducing without human intervention and the trees looked healthy. I didn't see any turning brown nor did I see any evidence of hemlock wooly adelgid infestation. Hopefully, this stand's distance from the main infestation will keep it safe for several years to come.
So which side of town has the best hemlocks? I'm going to have to go with the east side for now. I think the site in the North Chagrin Reservation is just more conducive to them not only growing tall, but creating viable seeds and saplings. It's interesting that they grow so much more readily in the North Chagrin Reservation. Rocky River and North Chagrin seem like similar sites. Both of them contain river valleys with shale walls. My guess is the soil composition is better for hemlocks in North Chagrin.