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Mountain Home Magazine

How Old is That Tree?

It’s a common question that we’d all love to have the answer to. For the time being most of us can only speculate. Botanists tell us that two centuries are required to bring a species like white oak to maturity. And according to Ronald Lanner, in his book Autumn Leaves, white oak trees 600 years of age were not uncommon when greeted by early colonists.

Age has never been a requirement for the Big Tree Program. Simply put, falling a tree and counting the rings to satisfy our curiosity would be asinine to say the least. One way of estimating tree age is to multiply the diameter by the specific factor assigned to each species variety. For example, the Farmers Valley white oak was 51.3 inches in diameter. Since white oak tees are assigned a factor of 5, then 51.3 X 5 = approximately 257 years old.

A much more accurate, but very risky, method of determining the age of a tree is with the use of an increment borer. This hollow, carbide steel tool, approximately 3/16 of an inch diameter, augers into the depths of the trunk to extract a section of wood, whereby the experienced user cannot only count the rings in the removed sample, but determine growth rate per inch.