Pioneer Mothers Memorial Research Natural Area

[photo:] Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest RNA. Photo by Lucy Tyrrell.

Tell City
The Pioneer Mother's Memorial Forest RNA is an 88-acre grove of virgin Central Hardwood forest, which includes cathedral stands of mature black walnut (Juglans nigra), yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), white oak (Quercus alba), and white ash (Fraxinus americana). Some of these trees exceed 50 inches in diameter at breast height and 60 feet to the first limb. This is one of the few remaining virgin tracts of Central Hardwoods in the region.

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
The nearest weather station is in Paoli, Indiana, approximately 1 to 2 miles away from the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Average annual precipitation is about 45 inches (114.3 cm). Average annual snowfall is 17 inches (43.18 cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Average summer temperature is 73ºF, average daily maximum is 86F, and highest temperature on record is 107ºF. Average winter temperature is 32ºF, average daily minimum is 21ºF, and the lowest temperature on record is -27ºF.
Elevation ranges from 650 to 830 feet (212.5 to 271.4 m).
Geology and Soils:
The topography in the RNA is hilly and rugged, due in part to the presence of several sinkholes. The RNA is in the heart of the southern Indiana karst topography. The soil is a residual, unglaciated loam and silt loam derived from the weathering of a sandstone stratum overlying limestone. In the lower parts of the RNA, the soil is derived from weathered limestone with accumulations of eroded overlying sandstone colluvium.
Aquatic Features:
Lick Creek, an intermittent creek, forms the northern boundary of this RNA.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Interior Low Plateau, Shawnee Hills (222D)
Crawford Escarpment (222Df)
Plant Communities:
Common Shrub Species:
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), redbud (Cercis canadensis), pawpaw (Asimina triloba), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), grape (Vitis sp.), greenbrier (Smilax sp.), Hercules club (Aralia spinosa), hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus).
Common Herbaceous Species:
Bedstraw (Galium sp.), hooked crow foot (Ranunculus recurvatus), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum), violets (Viola spp.), spring-beauty (Claytonia virginica), forest-plox (Phlox divaricata), cream-colored avens (Geum virginianum), wild ginger (Asarum candense), eastern bluebell (Mertensia virginica), trillium (Trillium recurvatum), skunk meadow-rue (Thalictrum revolutum), broad beech-fern (Thelypteris hexagonoptera), northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), Christmas-fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), touch-me-nots (Impatiens sp.).
Common Mammal Species:
Common Bird Species:

Related Website

Hoosier National Forest - Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest

Related Reports and Publications

1943. Establishment Record of the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Research Natural Area within the Hoosier National Forest. Unpublished report on file at the Northern Research Station, Rhinelander, 9 pages.

Auten, John T. 1941. Notes on Some Old-Growth Forests in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Auten, J. T. 1941. Notes on old growth forests in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Technical Note No. 49. USDA Forest Service, Central States Forest Experiment Station.

Birchenko, Inna; Feng, Y.; Romero-Serverson, J. 2009.  Biogeographical distribution of chloroplast diversity in Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra L.).  The American Midland Naturalist 161(1): 134-145.

Davis, M. B. 1993. Old growth in the East: a survey. Richmond, VT: A Wild Earth Publication: 18-145.

Ford, S. 1988. Rare virgin woods is natural reminder of the way it was. The Sunday Courier, Sunday, Feb. 14.

Hepburn, A. H. 1942. Joe Cox’s trees live on. The Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 31.

Laughlin, K. 1947. Big trees of the Midwest. American Midland Naturalist 37:788 793.

Lindsey, A. A., and D. V. Schmelz. 1970. The forest types of Indiana and a new method of classifying Midwestern hardwood forests. Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science 79:198 204.

Matheus, Trevis J.; Maxwell, Justin T. 2018; Placing modern droughts in historical context in the Ohio Valley using tree-rings.  Physical GeoGraPhy; Vol. 39, No. 4, 343–353;

Matheus, Trevis J. 2014. A 332-year reconstruction of midwest droughts from tree-rings. Master of Sciences thesis in the Department of Geography, Indiana University. Copy of thesis on file Northern Research Station, Rhinelander, WI.

Maxwell, Justin T.  2016.  The benefit of including rarely-used species in dendroclimatic reconstructions:  A case study using Juglans Nigra in south-central Indicana, USA.  Tree-Ring Research, 72(1), pp. 44–52

Maxwell, Justin T.; Grant L. Harley. In Press. Increased tree-ring network density reveals more precise estimations of sub-regional hydroclimate variability and climate dynamics in the Midwest, USA.  Climate Dynamics.  DOI 10.1007/s00382-016-3396-9.

Maxwell, Justin T.; Grant L. Harley; Scott M. Robeson.  2016. On the declining relationship between tree growth and climate in the Midwest United States: the fading drought signal. Climatic Change 138:127–142.

Maxwell, J.T.; Harley, G.L.; Matheus, T.J. 2014. Dendroclimatic reconstructions from multiple co-occurring species: a case study from an old-growth deciduous forest in Indiana, USA. International Journal of Climatology. Published online in Wiley Online Library ( Copy of publication on file Northern Research Station, Rhinelander, WI.

McCune, B., and E. S. Menges. 1986. Quality of historical data on Midwestern old growth forests. American Midland Naturalist 116:163 172.

Myers, C. C., P. L. Roth, and G. T. Weaver. 1983. Pioneer Mothers' Memorial Forest Baseline Data. Department of Forestry, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale Technical Bulletin No. 1 83. 170 pp.

Potzger, J. E., R. C. Friesner, and C. O. Keller. 1942. Phytosociology of the Cox Woods: a remnant of forest primeval in Orange County, Indiana. Butler University Botanical Studies 5:190 221.

Romero-Severson, J., Aldrich, P.; Feng, Y.; Sun, W. L.; Michler, A. 2003. Chloroplast DNA variation of northern red oak (Quercus rubra L.) in Indiana. New Forests 26:  43–49.

Schlesinger, R. C., D. T. Funk, P. L. Roth, and C. C. Meyers. 1991. Pioneer Mothers’ Memorial Forest revisited. 8th Central Hardwood Forest Conference, Pennsylvania State University, PA.

Schlesinger, R., D. Funk, R. Roth, and C. Myers. 1994. Assessing changes in biological diversity over time. Natural Areas Journal 14(4):235 240.

Schmelz, D. V. 1964. A graphical analysis of the size class structure of Indiana forest. M.S. Thesis, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

Schmelz, D. V. 1969. Methodological approaches in the analysis of Indiana old growth forest. Ph.D. Dissertation, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

Schmelz, D. V., and A. A. Lindsey. 1965. Size class structure of old growth forests in Indiana. Forest Science 11:258 264.

Schmelz, D. V., and A. A. Lindsey. 1970. Relationships among the forest types of Indiana. Ecology 51:620 629.

Spetich, M. 1995. Characteristics and spatial patterns of old growth forests in the midwest. Ph.D. Dissertation, Purdue University. 276 pp.

Spetich, M. A., S. R. Shifley, and G. R. Parker. 1999. Regional distribution and dynamics of coarse woody debris in midwestern old growth forests. Forest Science 45(2):302 313.

Thomas, J. W. 1992. Editorial. Journal of Forestry 90(2):11.

Last Modified: May 6, 2021