Maximum Ages for Eastern Trees  

== 8 of 8 ==
Date: Thurs, Oct 25 2007 4:31 pm


You should see if you can get a cookie from the tree, or at least a core or ring count. The oldest whit ash listed on Neil's Old-list is 136 years. If you have 150 years then to paraphrase Jon Lovitz (A League of Their Own) - "That would be more wouldn't it?"

Ed Frank

TOPIC: White ash and other maximum tree ages

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Thurs, Oct 25 2007 4:42 pm
From: ForestRuss


If the oldest white ash cookie is 136 years I will keep my eyes open. With
emerald ash borer recently discovered in Fayettville, WV near New River Gorge
it's days may be numbered in the Apps. I have seen sound white ash trees up
to 45" DBH harvsted but I have never bothered to count the rings.

What are some of the other maximum ages found so far.

I am able to get extremely accurate tree ring counts but stumps are a
terminal measurement process!


== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Thurs, Oct 25 2007 4:55 pm
From: edfrank

Russ and everyone else,

The oldest official counts for ages are posted on Neil Pederson's EasternOLD-List. Of the 364species listed in eastern US (Audubon Field Guide), only 54 have "official" cross-dated ages. I want to collect ages from as many of the other species as possible from ring counts on stumps and cores. So count everything you find, write down your information on where, when, who, and how and send them to me. It is easier to send a list of what is known that what isn;t. Check on the listing on Neil's website:  for the most detailed information.

== 2 of 13 ==
Date: Fri, Oct 26 2007 6:13 am
From: edfrank

Bob, ENTS,

There is some inherent inaccuracies with ring counts. There may be false rings or missing rings, but these limitations are understood within the context of the methodology. They are trivial compared to the degree of error in field guides. Better age range information will be valuable when considering the ecology and history of the small patches of old growth we are finding and documenting.

For foresters and field people there will be a tenancy to not count rings on some stumps because you "know" there are older examples out there that you have seen. However at this point, there is such a paucity of good numbers, I would encourage you to count what you find. If we get older counts later so much the better, but the goal now is to get something more reasonable. Along access roads there may be shrub-sized species, like witch hazel for example, cut that are not normally harvested. Numbers for these species would be useful also.

Ed Frank

Bob Leverett wrote:


Good points. I second your observation that "anyone with any field experience at all will realize that most of the numbers are hideously wrong, often by a factor of two or more times." Originally, I never thought of ENTS as needing to be a keeper of the numbers specifically because of the unreliability of other sources. I did see us as keeping lists of special interest to us, but not a numbers keeper in the broader context. However, along the way, it became apparent to me that we in ENTS have a sensitivity to the dimensions of eastern species, absolute and regional, and that our sensitivity is matched by no other organization or individual. In the past, I cited the example of the mismeasured Michigan champion Red Maple, which was listed for years in the National Register . I discussed the appearance of the mismeasured red maple in the famous book on stand dynamics by Oliver and Larson. I realize that they got permission to publish the list of big trees from American Forests,
but obviously had no feeling for the reliability of the numbers. One can argue that their publishing the list does not detract from the main thrust of the book, but how many tables drawn from other sources are also shot through with errors? I have no idea. Maybe the big tree numbers are an aberration, But with no intended disrespect, the lofty academic credentials of Oliver and Larson haven't made them sensitive to species dimension maximums and where those maximums are most likely to occur. However, I am not picking just on Oliver and Larson. There is no individual or group except ENTS that can step forward and correct the record. So, I believe we have an obligation and should be prideful of our self-appointed role. And in this mission, we are just at the gates.

When my buddy Gary Beluzo finishes his research on Liriodendron tulipifera, he and I will be THE experts on where the species achieves certain sizes - local, regional, and absolute maximums. Of course, ENTS will be the direct beneficiary of Gary's research. It will be his work that determines what the real numbers are. His numbers will carry the ENTS\seal of approval.

But how are independent researchers to know what sources to trust as they search the Internet for data on tree dimensional maximums? If we want the truth to proliferate, we will need to increasingly explain what our stamp of approval means. Our unswerving dedication to measuring accuracy must be constantly explained and promoted. Humility has no virtue in this regard.

When Lee, Don, Will, and I complete the paper that Lee has proposed on comparing the two tree height measurement techniques (Sine and Tangent), perhaps the paper will help others understand why there is so much inaccuracy in tree measurement numbers scattered throughout the literature. I will end with the point that the data we gather may not be the most important in the wide range of statistics that are collected on trees, but at least it will be trustworthy as a source. I'm extremely anxious for these damned shingles to let go their painful grip and free me to hit the woods with my new TruPulse 360 to measure, measure, measure. Well, these are my thoughts at 2:58AM. Can't sleep.


== 6 of 13 ==
Date: Fri, Oct 26 2007 9:16 am
From: dbhguru


I think you are right on the money. We need data and lots of it. The errors made due to false or missing rings are small compared to the paucity of data. I remember looking at a silviculturally developed list of maximum ages for a variety of species. Black birch was listed at 150 years. That is utterly ridiculous. Maximums for black birch can be between 300 and 360 years with many, many well over 200. What was the basis for such an understated number as 150? I can only speculate. But collecting tree age data seems like an emerging new, important mission for ENTS.


== 7 of 13 ==
Date: Fri, Oct 26 2007 9:35 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

Bob, I wonder if that "silviculturally developed list" was attempting to define "overmature" trees rather than oldest possible age. By overmature, most foresters are thinking of trees which are deteriorating from a lumber perspective. It may be that many black birch can attain such age, but few are going to be good lumber- and of course, foresters only care about trees that can be made into $$$$. <G>

Regarding collecting tree data- let's say someone discovers an old growth stand that is 1,000 acres. Do you folks have a systematic way of examining such a large parcel? Foresters have developed such systems and I wonder if you could use them- at least for a very good quality reconnoitering of the property. Whatever system is used- it should be statistically sound.

In old growth stands that have been examined carefully- did the examination simply locate and measure the nicest/largest trees- or is the entire stand examined to give average age, average size and other sorts of info? This other info could be useful in "old growth studies" if such a study is to be truly systematized.


== 9 of 13 ==
Date: Fri, Oct 26 2007 10:19 am
From: dbhguru


I can't answer for all of us, but as for myself, I've done it all ways. I've put in plots with strict scientific controls for sampling purposes and I've just wandered through a stand measuring individual trees. Should I find an old growth site that needed confirmation, I would use a more scientific approach and would not hesitate to utilized well established forestry site-based techniques.

I have the guide to putting in CFI plots and have several forstry texts to include the bible on mensuration. The applied science of forestry gives us many valuable methods and it makes sense for us to use them.

Where we had to head out on our own was in whole tree modeling. On that one, we're writing the book. I just added a $1,600 instrument called a TruPulse 360 to my repertoire. When I get up to see you and explore that pine stand on the Trustees land, I'll bring it and demonstrate it. I also want to get you to show me how to make use of the relascope features of my Criterion RD1000 dendrometer-reloscope.

At this point, my just toughing out this severe case of shingles. I've never experienced anything quite like it.


== 10 of 13 ==
Date: Fri, Oct 26 2007 3:52 pm

I'm reminded that one of my reading assignments in college was a small tome called "There are 00 Trees in Russia". The intent of the article was to point out that ascribing a number, any number lends credence to the claim being made, factual or not. Most of us, having not been to Russia would be willing to accept some number, say between 1 x 10 to the seventh and 10 the ninth?

It's not unreasonable for a member of the lay public to question facts put forth in the various media, particularly in order to ascertain the source of the facts/figures, in fact it is a sign of an educated lay public when curious facts are questioned. It's not unreasonable for a member of the lay public to question an organization's facts/figures, but without the experience or education to judge the truth in fact and figure, it's also not unreasonable to accept say, American Forest's National Champion Tree Registry facts and figures, as it as the 'patina' of an acceptable source.

Now, ENTS members have more than the average lay public's experience and education in and about our forests, and should question many if not most of the Registry's entries, especially the cadre of tree measuring nerds...:>} that from time to time wax from lyrical to figurative.
However, I'm not sure, from the few publications that I have been a part of, about the expections of Oliver and Larson's acceptance of American Forest's numbers. Until there's an option, a better option with extensive, accurate, replicable figures, it's hard to castigate those who accept unknowingly, figures from American Forest.

Is ENTS the answer? Within the geographic constraints you mention, absolutely. Nationally? Mmmmm, maybe not yet. Should that stop us? No, but it's a big task to undertake!

Date: Fri, Oct 26 2007 8:49 pm
From: dbhguru


I hear what you say. I am guilty of harboring unrealistic expectations on what should be personally understood about species maximums by authoritative figures such as Oliver and Larson. I do realize they can't know everything. On thinking about it, I must acknowledge that I have misjudged the highly specialized nature of species dimensional profiling.


== 11 of 13 ==
Date: Fri, Oct 26 2007 3:59 pm

I agree as well, although I would say in defense of dendrologists that extrapolations that cross-reference other trees in the same locality would be acceptable proxies, even if 'rotten to the core'...;>}
Another convention that would allow acceptance of extrapolations, would be similar to baseball statistics where an asterisk would point out the questionable, but best available estimate quality of the number.
Of course, cookies would be acceptable only from 'non-living' trees, to prevent destructive sampling...

== 12 of 13 ==
Date: Fri, Oct 26 2007 6:09 pm
From: edfrank


I would be happy to accept full blown cross-dating of cores, but the potential errors are so large in the extrapolations that I don't trust any of the numbers. Perhaps a comment column could be used to suggest what an extrapolated date miught be, but the data set itself should in my opinion be limited to actual counts.

Don, Bob, Russ, other ENTS,

I am thinking that there might be three briad categories of age information that might be obtained from stumps or dendro cores. I would leave it up to the person doing the colecting or counting to provide a judgement of which category in which to place the sample.

1) Late Mature: This specimen represents an old tree, but trees in this age range are not uncommon.

2) Old tree: This specimen represents a tree that is uncommonly old for the species.

3) Very old: This specimen may be approaching the maximum age possible for the species.

4) Not categorized / Unknown

You can see my idea, it would provide a rough guide or feel fo how old a particualr date might be with respect to the general population of trees. It would be an educated guess, but I think it would still be a useful bit of information. Perhaps the categories could be phrased better. What do you think?

Ed Frank

== 13 of 13 ==
Date: Fri, Oct 26 2007 7:25 pm

Just a quick cross-referencing, I was referring to matching up chronological sequences with trees within the area (I'm being purposely vague with area, as my intent is to be inclusive of an area with similar climatological/environmental inputs), such that one tree may extend the other...with a good overlapping match, there is little question as to accuracy.

TOPIC: White ash and other maximum tree ages

== 1 of 4 ==
Date: Tues, Oct 30 2007 6:25 pm

I've got quite a collection of "cookies" from various trees around the
mountains. There are a couple of white oak slabs about 17 inches
diameter from a property in Cashiers that are in the upper 300s, a
white pine piece from the same lot that's 10 inches and about 140
(though I think the large pines around there are about the same age),
and various other slabs from chestnut oaks, mockernut hickory, etc. I
found a cut stump today of an American chestnut that had sprouts
coming off of it, I cut a slab off of it, it looks to be about 75
years or so. I don't know what I'll do with all of these, but I keep
bringing them home.


== 2 of 4 ==
Date: Tues, Oct 30 2007 7:23 pm
From: James Parton


That's one old Sassafras! How big is it?


== 3 of 4 ==
Date: Tues, Oct 30 2007 7:49 pm
From: Josh

Ed, Neil, et al.,

I'm still going through my 120+ cores from this year. From a
noteworthy core stand-point, a 38 cm dbh bitternut hickory (Carya
cordiformes) stands out. It is growing on a high, poorly protected,
north facing bench in the Black Mountains at 4480', in the shadow of a
recently departed, 92 cm dbh northern red oak that yeilded 238 rings
to a hollow center. The bitternut is at least 168 years old based on
a ring count. I find this noteworthy because there is no listing for
the species on the Oldlist, and maximum age is interesting from a
natural history and forest ecology perspective. There are certainly
older bitternuts out there - Will may have cored older ones.

Other than that, it's the usual suspects. Several hemolocks in the
300 range, a couple of poplars in that rane, a whole slew of chestnut
oaks and white oaks 260 and up, and the odd red oak, black oak,
scarlet oak, or sugar maple. I'll check in if I come up with anything
else noteworthy.

Thanks for keeping track of the numbers Neil!

== 4 of 4 ==
Date: Tues, Oct 30 2007 9:35 pm

Josh, ENTS,
At this stage the primary goalis to collect ring count ages from any tree that is not on Neil pederson's Eastern Old-List In addition I would like to include any tree ring counts that exceed the maximum ages thatappear on the list, or that are comparable in age to those appearing on the list.
The following information would be needed:
1) Species name:
2) Location: Include name of forest, address (if applicable) county, state, GPS (if known):
3) Date of field sampling/counting:
4) Type of sampling;
a) Field count of tree stump or log
b) Field count of increment borer core
c) laboratory count of tree cross-section
d) laboratory count of increment borer core
e) Other method - please describe
5) Was a sample collected and if so, what is its disposition?
6) Diameter of tree:
7) Is the sample complete or partial:
6) Collector Name and address, phone, email:
7) Is the tree still alive or is it dead? (Living, Snag, Stump, Log, Remnant)
8) Description of the site, associated trees,land use history, etc.
9) Site Code (if applicable)
10) Photographs of the sample/sample area: yes or no.
11) Age character/category:
This last question deals with the apparent age of the specimen as interpreted by the collector. There are three broad categories of age information that might be obtained from stumps or dendro cores. I would leave it up to the person doing the colecting or counting to provide a judgement of which category in which to place the sample.

1) Late Mature: This specimen represents an old tree, but trees in this age range are not uncommon.

2) Old tree: This specimen represents a tree that is uncommonly old for the species.

3) Very old: This specimen may be approaching the maximum age possible for the species.

4) Not categorized / Unknown

There is a formal sample description form available on the Ultimate Tree Ring Pages! website: This covers most of the information above. (This existing list should be updates to include a space for GPS and photgraphic information).

A next step for the project, and one that can begin simutaneously, is the use of all collected data, both for "new" species and for old, to plot the ages known for various forests, and forest sections. This will allow a development of a beginning geographic data base of the age of various forests, and allow us to better understand and investigate the age structure of forest we are visiting and investigating.

Edward Frank

TOPIC: Maximum Ages

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Wed, Oct 31 2007 9:57 pm
From: dbhguru


No, not even close. However, increasing use is being made of digital cameras in ENTS. Many significant trees are now being photographed, but there still exists among us curmudgeons (me for one), who have digital cameras, but don't use them. Will Blozan, Gary Beluzo, Ed Frank, Dale Luthringer, etc. have tons of nifty photos and probably never measure a significant tree any more without photographing it. My big tree database has right at 4,500 laser-measured trees and not a single photo.

-------------- Original message --------------
From: "Joseph Zorzin" <>

Yo, Bob- just curious- but for each tree in the ENTS big tree-tall tree databases- do you have photos?


TOPIC: Maximum Ages

== 1 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Nov 1 2007 5:05 am
From: "Will Blozan"

James and Bob,

I am now approaching close to 30,000 digital photos, mostly of hemlock
forests and specific trees. At their request, I will be submitting the bulk
of them to the NPS for a permanent digital archive of a vanished ecosystem.
I am also scanning all my relevant print and slide film in high resolution
to submit as well. Most of the Tsuga Search trees have been digitally
stitched into a panoramic of the entire tree. Shots like these, or rather
nearly all of them, are non-repeatable in the face of HWA.

Digital rules!


== 2 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Nov 1 2007 5:34 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

Bob, unless I'm mistaken, most modern database programs can easily incorporate photos as database fields. I suggest if such a field is created then the photo imagery would have to be carefully defined. Each photo would be from a fixed distance, the compass direction of view defined, scale of photo defined, etc. Since databases are all about information, it would be highly informative, since as we all know a picture is worth a thousand words.

I like databases- I use MS Access but years ago I custom designed several in the "C" language. Doing that was good mental exercise, especially designing sorting and search algorithms and the creation of "data structures"- by comparison, forestry- even good forestry is really a "no brainer". Of course, now with Access and Excel- it's hardly worth doing any custom building of software as you can do almost everything with those programs.

On the subject of video- I wonder if some rigorous methodology can be designed to use video cameras to record a tree- the entire tree- then that video clip could also be incorporated into the database. Something I'll have to experiment with when I finally get that video camera.


== 3 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Nov 1 2007 7:30 am
From: Josh

Right on Joe,

Adding a photo field to a database would be a great addition to a
digital map of notable trees measured by ENTS. Along with photos, I
suggest collecting waypoints of especially notable trees, forests, and
organisms. Those points could then be intered into a GIS, and the
database could become the attribute table. A link between the point on
the map and photos of those points could be created, allowing the user
to click on a point to see the item of interest, which would be a
super cool thing to have on the website (as discussed previously).
Maybe Google Earth wants to throw us some cash to put this together?


TOPIC: Maximum Ages

== 1 of 4 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 1:48 am
From: Beth Koebel

Ed and all,

Extapolating from Scott's data on his Black Oak then
our big oak is about 300 years old. This is only a
very rough estimate has Scott's oak in PA and our's is
in IL. Our oak has a dbh of 71".

Neil, when nature takes its course and this Black Oak
dies and falls I will send you a cookie. It would be
very interesting to find out how old it was.

My family had a huge elm (slippery?) before anyone
took an interest in trees. I do know that when we had
to cut it down (it was dying due to a lighting strike)
my sister said it was 86 years old via ring count.
This makes sense since the late Judge Joe Maxwell (his
parents built the house when he was 6) told us that
the tree was planted after the house was built and at
the time the house was 90 years old. I don't know at
what height they counted the rings nor the dbh, but I
do know that the diameter at ground level was 8'.


== 2 of 4 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 2:03 am
From: dbhguru


Your example of the 86-year old elm that was an impressive 8' in diameter at ground level illustrates what Neil and others have so frequently poined out. Greart size does not equal great age. Great size most often equals great growing conditions.


== 3 of 4 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 2:57 am
From: Beth Koebel


This Saturday I am going down to our farm and I plan
on taking a few measurements. I can measure the cbh of
our bicentenial post oak. I call it this because 1976
was the first year we noticed the tree above the
grass. I can also take measurements of another post
oak located nearby (parent of the bicentenial tree?).
Last year it had a cbh of 131" and three years before
that it had a cbh of 128". That is an inch in growth
per year! Of course I could have measured it in a
slightly different location. I don't have any
equipment to take a core let alone the knowledge on
how to take a core.


== 4 of 4 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 2 2007 6:13 am
From: neil

Dear Beth,

A 300 yr old black oak would be cool. Let's hope, however, it lives a
nice long life.


From: "Jess Riddle" 
To: <>
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2008 8:27 PM
Subject: [ENTS] Re: ENTS Maximum Ages of Eastern Trees


Here are a few ring counts from Tsuga Search

Striped maple  69 GSMNP, NC
Black birch  378 Wright Tract, NC
Bitternut hickory  178 East Fork Chattooga River, SC
Alternate-leaf dogwood  24 GSMNP, TN
White ash 141 GSMNP, TN
Silverbell 197 GSMNP, TN
Mountain winterberry  78* GSMNP, TN
Fraser magnolia 130 GSMNP, NC
Eastern hophornbeam 50* GSMNP, TN
Sourwood 136* GSMNP, TN
Rosebay rhododendron 134* GSMNP, NC
White Basswood 154 GSMNP, NC

The asterisked figures are ones I have very low confidence in.  I have
also seen a trail cut black locust in Joyce Kilmer Wilderness Area, NC
that had 146 rings.