How Old are Those Trees?

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The tight rings of this stump caught my eye. The two yellow pencils represent 100 years from the edge of the bark, and then another 78 rings to the red pencil. That is 278 years to where the heart wood column had rotted out. I took a few measurements to come up with a average of 18 rings per inch in the central part of the stump – and measured approximately 6 inches to the theoretical pith. That makes for a total age of 386. Wow!

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In the 1950s-1960s large tracts of privately held land where harvested on South Fork Mountain. The evidence is still present, in the form of stumps (obviously), old porcelain signs like this one, and cull logs left on landings.

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Fortunately, most of the USFS held stands in the upper elevations of South Fork Mountain have been left intact. Due to the short growing season in the sub-alpine areas (+4,000′ elevation), trees can take along time to mature. The true fir trees in this picture are well over 6 feet in diameter. Based on the age of the stumps on adjacent private lands, these trees are easily close to 400 years old. Food for thought next time you are on Route 1 and wondering about the old growth stands you are driving or hunting through.

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