Ancient bark characteristics
  Jan 30, 2007 07:24 PST 


What's your take on why balding & deep furrowed bark characters often form on
old/ancient trees? I often attribute these characters to patterns of
suppression and release, but am not 100% sure that's the correct


Re: ancient trees & bark characters   Lee E. Frelich
  Jan 30, 2007 09:04 PST 


For species like oak and maple, deep furrowing occurs when the growth rate
of the trunk is slow, as it often is in old trees, so the bark is not
pushed off as fast as in younger trees.

There is also a balance between rate of erosion of bark versus growth rate
of the bark itself. Certain fungi that live in bark can cause higher rates
of erosion or flaking off of bark, causing balding on some portions of some

Re: ancient trees & bark characters
  Jan 30, 2007 10:02 PST 

Thanks Lee,

I've noted the deep furrowing character on ancient cucumbertree too. There is
also a type of deep furrowing pattern on some of our ancient hemlocks that
resemble that found on our ancient white pines (~315 years). The bark is so
deeply furrowed on one particular hemlock, that if I only looked at the bark, I
easily would've called it a white pine. I tried coring this particular tree
years ago, but the sample was so punky it practically disintegrated when it
came out of the borer.

The incredible "shaggy" appearance of some of our old red maples is also
peculiar. One could mis-identify these from a distance as shagbark hickory.
I've measured select "shags" on two of our old red maples in particular that
were in excess of 2ft long. Would the reasons for the shaggy character
possibly follow the same patterns you outline below?

Another bark appearance question/comment   Steve Galehouse
  Jan 30, 2007 19:42 PST 

The current discussion regarding the Michigan scarlet oak champion made
me wonder how much regional variability there is concerning what is
"typical" for a species---does a black oak (or other tree species) have
the same bark characteristics in Georgia as it does in Ohio? I've
included a photo of a northern red oak on the left, and black oak on the
right, showing what I consider to be typical for bark appearance for
each species. Both trees are about 30" diameter. Would these trees be
considered typical for their species in other states?

RE: Another bark appearance question/comment   Doug Bidlack
  Jan 30, 2007 23:02 PST 


I'm so glad you brought this up. Here in Massachusetts your photo is
exactly like what I normally see here. However, in southeastern MI I am
used to seeing black oak bark that is very blocky, almost like alligator
hide or something. I wonder if this has to do with the drier conditions
in MI where I always saw this tree. I noticed that when I have seen the
blocky black oak bark in MA it has always seemed to be on really dry
ridges. I hope I'm not completely making this up.

Re: ancient trees & bark characters   Lee E. Frelich
  Jan 31, 2007 05:40 PST 


I have observed that old shagbark hickory trees growing slowly have either
a lot of shag, and many layers, or have shed their shag and have smooth
areas, so the same things might be going on as with oak and maple (however,
that is speculation, I have not seen any studies of shagbark hickory
bark). Red, silver and sugar maples in the Midwest sometimes look like
shagbark hickory, and the reasons are a mystery to me.