The oldest official counts for ages of western trees are
posted on the OLDLIST maintained by Rocky Mountain Tree Ring
Research Of the hundreds species listed in western US (Audubon
Field Guide), only a handful have "official" cross-dated ages.
For the most part dendrochronologists focus on collecting
samples from long lived trees in order to create long histories
of environmental, fire, archaeological events and sequences. For
this reason there are only a few species that are heavily
sampled. For other species there may be a few samples taken here
or there as part of a larger study. The results of these often
are not published or compiled in any systematic way as they are
not the focus of the research. Until recently the International
Tree Ring database
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/treering.html would not even
accept dendro sequences less than 200 years old. Check on the
current age listings on the OLDLIST website:
http://www.rmtrr.org/oldlist.htm for the most
In the face of this lack of published information the maximum
ages that hundreds of species of trees and shrubs may reach is
virtually unknown, and often misrepresented in various popular
media and field guides. We can help remedy this situation. I
want to collect ages from as many of the other species as
possible from ring counts on stumps and cores. So I am asking
WNTS members count everything you find, write down your
information on where, when, who, and how and send them to me.
At this stage the primary goal is to collect ring count ages
from trees, shrubs and vines in western United, Canada, and
To be included are:
1.. Any ages from species not currently on the OLDLIST
2.. Ages that exceed or approach the ages for the species on the OLDLIST
3.. Ages that represent great age for the species.
There are 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, cut that
are not normally harvested. Numbers for these species would be
A next step for the project, and one that can begin
simultaneously, 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.
I have created a table on the WNTS website: http://www.nativetreesociety.org/dendro/wnts_max_ages.htm
in order to compile this information. To jump start this
project and to add the first species to the list is a 70 year
old by ring count Poison Oak vine by Mario Vaden.
(Mario, where was this vine located?)