Mammoth Cave Big Woods
The Mammoth Cave Big Woods consist of 300 acres of forest within Mammoth Cave National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Big Woods are considered one of the largest tracts of old-growth in Kentucky and are listed as a Natural Heritage site by the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission. The forest includes a large number of oak species, including white, northern red, blackjack, post, and black oaks, various hickories, Virgina pine, butternut, and even some small American chestnut.
The largest trees in the park are some outstandingly large tulip trees. Unfortunately, many of the largest tulip trees have been severely damaged by the Park Service's prescribed burn program, with charred bark sloughing off 5 and 6 feet up the trunk on some trees. While some of the communities present in and around the Big Woods may benefit from fire, trees like tulip poplar and butternut (Juglans cineria, aka "white walnut'), an endangered species, are not fire adapted and suggest that some of the areas being burned developed with minimal influence from fire.
Recent field work at Mammoth Cave Big Woods suggests that much of the area is not "virgin" old-growth, but instead appears to be of a mix of old-growth and second-growth forest. Still, many very old and large trees are present.