Ages for Short Lived Trees  Edward Frank
  October 16, 2007
ENTS Members


For those of you who do not know me my name is Edward Frank and I serve as the webmaster for the groups website:  If you look on the website for the Eastern OLDLIST: A database of maximum tree ages for Eastern North America maintained by Dr. Neil Pederson of Eastern Kentucky University at  you will find the maximum documented ages for 54 species of trees native to eastern North America.  These are primarily dated by standard cross-dating methods, a few are ring counts, and few are historical dates.  In eastern United States. There are according to a popular field guide 364 species of trees native to this are and some naturalized species also.  That means that less than 15% of these species have any age data at all compiled on the Eastern OLDLIST.


I understand that in 2000 it was decided that the International Tree-Ring Databank would 'allow' submission of tree ring records less than 100 yrs in length; prior to that, records shorter than 200 yrs were discouraged.  So now some ages for less long lived species may be forthcoming.  I realize many of you are looking at long term histories such as climatic changes, fire histories, and so forth.  But there is value to other types of research which  involve ecosystem evaluations of forests populated with many of these other shorter lived species.  What I am asking is if any of you have cross-dated ages, or simple ring counts for any of the numerous species of trees without age information, that we all join together and publish a listing of these ages.  I would offer that everyone that contribute information be listed as a co-author of the compilation.  (I may get more co-authors than data).  A simple listing as I propose would not preclude a more detailed formal publication at a later date. 


I sent a version of this post to the Tree-Ring Forum.  I would like this data from ENTS members also.  We are likely to have data on a number of tree species as many members have coring equipment, or in their careers as foresters, etc. have done ring counts on downed trees.  Please send in this information.


For example I recently sent to Neil Pederson a “cookie” of an American Basswood that is approximately 190 years old based upon a ring count.   I know that some members of ENTS have been collecting age data for Great Rhododendron.  I even collected a cross-section of staghorn sumac to determine its age. 


Below is a list of ages from a sampling in Zoar Valley, New York examining the ages of river terraces.




DBH (cm)






Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis)



RC-Incomplete core


Zoar Valley, NY

Diggins, Bulletin of ENTS, Summer 2007

Not previously listed

Black Birch (Betula nigra)



RC- Complete core


Zoar Valley, NY

Diggins, Bulletin of ENTS, Summer 2007

Not previously listed

America Beech (Fagus grandifolia)




Complete core


Zoar Valley, NY

Diggins, Bulletin of ENTS, Summer 2007

Old-list age at 204

American Basswood (Tilia americana)



RC- Complete core


Zoar Valley, NY

Diggins, Bulletin of ENTS, Summer 2007

See note above regarding basswood cookie

Not previously Listed

Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoids)



RC- Complete core


Zoar Valley, NY

Diggins, Bulletin of ENTS, Summer 2007

Complete core dated to 115

Not previously listed


Many of the ages listed in the Eastern OLDLIST for species, especially those under 200 years likely do not represent realistic maximums for those species, just the data available. If you peruse historical sources that might be expected to have correct ring counts, additional ages for species can also be found.  In the monograph:  The Ecology and Silvics of Forest in the High Plateaus of Pennsylvania by A.F. Hough and R. D. Forbes, Ecological Monographs, Vol 13, No. 3, July 1943 are several old ages based upon ring counts.  These include: American beech 366 years; Sugar maple: 353 years, and Hemlock to 536 years. 


This data compilation could be published in the Bulletin of the Eastern Native Tree Society or other outlet.  I would only include those trees dated by cross-dating, ring counts, or historical reference.  No extrapolations would be included. 


I know many of you have collected serendipitous samples as part of another study, singleton specimens casually collected, and the like for many other species than what are listed in the Eastern OLDLIST.  It is important that this information be compiled.


Edward Frank