Oaks & Wye Oak, MD
02, 2005 12:34 PDT
Sounds like a sweet spot to vacation. I read your question about
white oak age, and it made me think of the Wye oak that used to
be in Md. It toppled in 2002. It was reported that it was 460
years old. I hope someone verified that when it was
North Carolina (matreial deleted)
The town of Highlands North Carolina sites atop a broad
plateau only a
little over ten miles from the point where Georgia,
and North Carolina intersect....
plateau's sandy soils and wet climate allow some tree
the area to achieve great longevity and others
exceptional size... and
on a small mountaintop near town white oaks reach 450
years old, an
exceptional age for the species...
On the same property, at the top of the hill, on the
of the woods, by an old barn grows an old white oak.
broke the top out of tree, and the owners had the trunk
cut just above
the remaining large limb. At least, 424 rings are
present at the cut.
The cut was made with a chainsaw, so some in
areas were likely missed. Also, well over 30 rings occur
in the first
inch of radius, so the time to reach the 11' height
where the rings
were counted may have been substantial. Hence, the total
age of the
oak may exceed 450 years. Several other smaller, but
old, white oaks grow in a narrow strip of woods nearby.
Does anyone know of a good reference for the oldest
confirmed age of
white oak? The oldest I have heard of is 450 years for a
grew about five miles west of Highlands. Would this site
interest to any dendrochronologists?
Jess & Doug Riddle
Oldest Oaks & Wye Oak, MD
02, 2005 20:27 PDT
I have been looking for information on the Wye Oak and have not
counted date for the tree. The Old List has several white oaks
Quercus alba 407 XD Warren County Iowa Duvick
and Blasing 1983
Quercus alba 373 XD DYS08 Belmont County,Ohio Rubino and
Quercus alba 289 XD HT50 Pisgah NF, North Carolina J.Speer 2001
I have contacted some agencies to see if they actually have an
the age of the Wye Oak.
03, 2005 07:10 PDT
The Wye Oak was certainly not a young tree given that it was
huge by 1940, but I think the approximately 450 year age was
guess. The tree was largely hollow at the base, so a full ring
could not be conducted. Still, a ring count of one of the
low limbs or a higher section of the trunk would provide useful
Thanks for checking the old list too. I checked it before
make sure I wasn't completely off base.
I also heard back a little more about that 450 year age I cited.
Apparently, that cross section was actually counted as 420, then
recounted at 390. Other trees at the site did not prove as old
06, 2005 05:23 PDT
Jess et al.,
The information Jess dug up is correct. I included this
population of white
oak in my dissertation. As I was winding down my fieldwork I was
was trying to
include all of the reportedv400+ yr old white and chestnut oak
in the area bound by AL, MI, and NY. I heard about this 400-500
year old white
oak in NC and bolted down last summer get a sample of this tree,
oldest in the east. On this trip I also sampled Savage Mtn in
because of a report discussing 400+ yr old chestnut oaks.
Anyhow, the oldest white oak on Lil' Scaly Mountain in
Highlands, NC was 386
years old. I say 'was' because this tree was chosen for removal
when they were
decided to build a new building; there is an 80 yr old
camp/retreat center in
this 'old-growth' forest. With help, 20 other white oaks on the
top of this
mountain were cored. The oldest living white oak is 313 years
old. All of these
these ages are crossdated. There is no extrapolation for the
time to reach
coring height. Both of these samples, esp. the one cut down,
There could be older trees on the steep slope just below the
mountain top. We
didn't have time to explore that area.
Interestingly, this population is one of the few whose growth is
by drought. Drought is the dominant limiter of radial growth of
studied to date in the eastern US; the exception being Atlantic
white cedar. As
Jess alluded to, this location gets plenty of rain and is cool.
The only other
population Ed Cook found lacking drought stress like the
is the Linville Gorge white oak population.
As for the oldest oaks in the east. Checking all the sources I
Dave Stahle, Dave Orwig, going through the modern tree-ring
analysis lit), the
oldest oak is a white oak Ed Cook cored in 1983 along the Blue
Ridge Parkway in
central VA. This sample was too suppressed for his work (drought
and had been sitting in our lab undated for almost 20 years. I
spent more than a
day trying too crossdate this sample. It was very suppressed for
> 200 years.
The inner ring date is 1519 making this tree 464 years when
cored. We don't
know if this tree is still alive.
There are several other white oaks in Ed's collection 420+ years
of age. The
second oldest white oak in Ed's collection was 433 yrs old in
The oldest chestnut oaks, btw, are 427 years old; 1 in SE PA, 1
in N NJ. I
visited both of these trees in July 2005, so these trees are now
430 years old.
Interestingly, these are many, 7-10, chestnut oaks along the
Appalachian Mountains 420+ years old.
I deleted Ed Frank's OLDLIST email by accident, so I'm not sure
discussed. I will submit these data to OLDLIST soon to update
oldest trees in
the east. Ed Cook has plenty of them.
BTW, I completed my dissertation in early July and started
teaching in the
dept. of biological sciences at Eastern Kentucky University in
Bill Martin retired from the department, unfortunately, in June.
It would have
been great to work with him. I'm not exactly replacing him, but
I am currently
the purest plant ecologist in the department.
Hope this helps,
06, 2005 17:37 PDT
Neil (or anyone else),
Do you know if anyone has come up with a good reason why the
white oaks in
these relatively temperate areas with high rainfall would grow
so slowly for
so long? Meanwhile, the pines are rocketing above them. I assume
it has to
do with the soils around there, they are very granular and
07, 2005 16:22 PDT
No, I'm not sure many know that these 2 populations of white oak
limited by drought let alone why this is so. It is a head
07, 2005 08:45 PDT
I emailed people at Maryland DNR to enquire about the age of the
when it was removed. I eventually was directed to Dan Rider. For
information the relevant correspondence is attached below. I
any additional information that I might receive.
Dear Mr. Rider,
My name is Edward Frank. I am with the Eastern Native Tree
Society and I
am trying to find out if ring counts were done for the Wye Oak
when it was
removed. Was it hollow and how many rings were actually counted?
can help me with this information it would be greatly
I'm researching an answer for your question. Please don't be too
disappointed in getting a "blank stare" from me as a
response to your
question -- I hired on with the Forest Service sometime after
the Wye Oak
fell and much of the preliminary work was already completed. (My
involvement with the Wye Oak was organizing the disposition
What I can tell you is that the tree was largely hollow. In
estimate that the first 40-feet or so of the tree was largely
about 4 or 6 inches of sound wood existed on the outer periphery
tree, making me marvel at how the tree withstood previous storms
long as it had.
I have forwarded your email to other staff who were much more
the Wye Oak after it fell. I should be able to provide you with
informed response soon.
Daniel R. Rider
Forest Products Utilization & Marketing
Maryland DNR-Forest Service
To the best of my knowledge, no ring count was performed. As you
rotten and jagged base of the tree was not that suitable for
doing a ring
count. Maybe if we can get Stihl to help us saw some cookies, we
answer this guy's question accurately - encourage him to send an
Stihl to ask them to support our request.... :) -- KJ
Mr. Frank --
see message below from our urban forester. ~Dan
All I can relate is that Dr. Smiley from Bartlett Labs assessed
on 11/13/90 and found 4.5" of sound wood @ 2' above ground
Fraedrich from Bartlett labs assessed the tree on Columbus Day
1997 and got
these rings were counted, to prorate this very small sample
the diameter of the tree (112" @ dbh) would provide very
- a 'guesstimate' at best.
From: "Rider, Daniel"
To: "Edward Frank"
Thanks for the additional info. The lower limbs are sound -- some of them are in excess of 5-ft
The reference to Stihl actually was to Stihl -- as in the chainsaw manufacturer. We have a project we'd like to carry out with the Wye Oak that requires a very long bar and we're hoping that Stihl can
accommodate our need.
Nursery Sept 12, 2005
No official ring count has been taken. The bottom 10 feet of the tree was too rotten and hollow to be able to count rings. Oxford University has a specialist that was interested in taking a core from the closest to ground level portion of the bole that was solid to get a fairly accurate age. They were trying to locate/build a suitable tool to take the sample. I have not heard from them in several months.
09, 2005 05:25 PDT
Thanks for sharing all the fascinating details. I'm glad to know
full story about the Little Scaly Mountain site, and see solid
known ages for white oak and chestnut oak. I also second Michael
Davie's curiosity about the lack of drought stress. Linville
especially surprising since that area does not seem nearly as
Highlands and the sandy soils, derived form the quartzite that
underlies much of the gorge, would not hold water well.
interesting to think about.
09, 2005 11:56 PDT
I have cored a chestnut oak in the Greenbrier District of the
drought stress either) to 398 years back in 1993. I also counted
~10 feet from the base on a fallen white oak in the western
Old Oaks & Wye Oak AVL OAK
11, 2005 06:43 PDT
A ring count on the Wye Oak’s lower limbs would be darn close
to actual age.
Why hasn’t anyone done it, or if they have, let us know the
Years ago Michael Davie and I visited and measured a huge white
oak north of
Asheville, NC. It had been “aged” by someone with a short
increment borer to
400+ years if I recall correctly (the tree was 25’ in girth).
Mike and I,
having long worked with trees including pruning and cutting down
were skeptical of that age, which was of course extrapolated
from a short
section. Through the magnification of my rangefinder I counted
~125 rings on
the lowest branch that was removed about 12’ from the base.
represented an original limb, indicating the tree was far less
years old. Of course, I could not see all the rings but the
were wide and vigorous. That tree was happy!
Open-grown white oaks grow very fast, reaching over 15’ cbh in
90 years here
in Asheville. I suspect the growing conditions near the Wye Oak
better, but I still think the Wye Oak was an old tree. However,
doubt much over 300. But admittedly, I know nothing of the site
rapidly white oaks grow up in MD. I just don’t see an
open-grown white oak
being in an open-grown setting for 450 years. Perhaps it was in
American setting. Anyway, I would like a ring count from the
11, 2005 19:41 PDT
I like hearing about 400 yr old oaks. Well, in reality, hearing
about any 400+
yr old tree is cool. 400 seems like a magic number in terms of
tree age. It
seems like a hard number to surpass for some reason.
One of the three 420+ yr old chestnut oaks in northern NJ was
sampled at ~ 12'
above the root collar. It had fallen down between my first and
second visit to
the stand, so Ed Cook and I had the chance of getting a solid
core from this
tree. Therefore, when it was alive, it was most likely the
oldest of the
handful of known 420+ yr old chestnut oaks. How old it truly
was, however, is
pure speculation. Makes me think chestnut oak can probably go
440-450 at least,
which, now that I think of it, is one basis of my last email to
Jess on how the
max age of chestnut oak will increase in the future as it is
11, 2005 19:55 PDT
The solid upper ages for white and chestnut oak might only be
solid for the
moment, if moment is defined in geologic time - the next few
years. I'm not
suggesting there is unpublished data of older individuals of
these species. I
just get a feeling that future research will push these ages up
a little more.
My guess is that chestnut oak's max age would increase more than
white oak. I
guess time will tell, though.
I'm not sure where in Linville the white oaks were cored; they
were cored ~20
yrs ago. But, yes, the lack of a drought signal in this
population is very
unusual and surprising, esp. given that drought is the dominant
radial growth of most species studied to date in the eastern US.
Highlands NC OLD TREES
12, 2005 06:21 PDT
Larry and Neil,
The chestnut oak is growing on the south face of Greenbrier
Pinnacle on the
TN side of the Smokies. There is an extensive chestnut oak
forest with very
old trees (and very large, too 14'+ cbh). Many trees exceed 300
witnessed by trail cut specimens and my core samples. Black gum
in the same
area reaches 578+, tuliptree 448+, hemlock 430+, and a fallen
chestnut over 300 (trail cut). DR. Stahle and I sampled the
stand in 1997
for some chestnut chronologies, but we did not core in the
The white oak was in the western Smokies on the Gold Mine trail
NW of Cades
Cove. I also recall another chestnut oak cut to clear the trail
that was 380
years or so a good ways up from the base. Other old trees in the
include a 339 year old mockernut, 334 year old shortleaf pine (2
a 209 year old Table-mountain pine, 230 year old pitch pine, and
old Saul's oak (this specific tree is one of the coolest on
and chestnut oak also exceed 300 routinely. Virginia pine
exceeds 140 years.
I also tried to core an ANCIENT looking- as in primo Cross
post oak that went 220 years in the first 4 inches of the core.
turned to punk so the rest of the 8" to center was rotten.
I suspect it may
have been close to 400 years. Blackgum probably reaches 500+
white pine over 350 years. BTW, there is approximately 20,000
acres of these
trees (with sparse former settlements).
07, 2007 18:39 PDT
I came across an article on the destruction of the Wye Oak in
Maryland in 2002:
60 mph winds fell Wye Oak
By: Greg Maki, Staff Writer June 09, 2002
The Star Democrat 2002 Newspaper
The Wye Oak stood 104 feet tall with a circumference of 36 feet.
It was a White Oak. The trunk was hollow up to about 40 feet
with only 4 to6 inches of sound wood supporting the structure.
However there are intact 5+ foot diameter lower limbs that could
potentially be used for dating. It was conservatively estimated
to be 460 years old (no count confirmation) with a very large