|| James Parton|
Until very recently I thought the oldest trees in the Eastern US was
grove of bald cypress along the Black River near Wilmington NC that
have been reported at 1700 years or so. Followed by Charleston's
Oak at 1.400 years. However the Senator Bald cypress near Orlando
Florida is believed by many to be between 3000/3500 years old. Is
the oldest known tree in the east? It definitely looks impressive.
If you don't mind me shooting from the hip, I seriously doubt that
Angel Oak is 1,400 years old. I can't see any live oak reaching
ages. Could be wrong.
As for the Senator cypress, it is surely the most awesome cypress
ever laid eyes on. As to the reputed age of 3000 years old, that
sounds way high to me. I wonder if David Stahle has ever visited
Those N.C. trees are much smaller in diameter than the Senator.
believe that has something to do with the type of river they are
located on, which is a pretty nutrient starved one. Maybe someone
can explain the difference in black-water/brown-water
their resulting nutrient levels.
You have to take these off-ENTS proclamations with
about a ton of salt. Dr. Neil Pederson of this list can give you
a realistic appraisal of the Senator's age. More on the subject
of tree statistics and their reliability in a later post.
I think the ages of those trees are WAY overestimated. Clueless
folks get a
number in print and it is perpetuated ad nauseum (like 200 foot
260' white pines, etc.). Live oaks are fairly fast growing,
in full sun with a huge crown. I have long thought all that is
settle the ridiculous claim of 1400 years for the Angel Oak would
be to pull
a core from one of the low limbs to age it. However, there is
likely no one
on earth strong enough to core the tree and as a diffuse porous
indistinct ring-forming species the age may not be able to be
I have seen the Senator- truly awesome but would never estimate it
3500 years old. Big trees are not necessarily old- they just grow
on a good site and have survived being blown down or otherwise
7 foot diameter white oak in Asheville was believed to be 450
years old, yet
the lowest limb on the tree was 125 years old. The age was
a short core. A huge walnut in Asheville was thought to be over
old; a limb removed from it indicated it could not be over 50.
thought to be historic witnesses to events long ago are found to
younger than the event itself when they die and the rings are
think there is a rather famous case of an oak in Connecticut being
the Charter Oak- thought to the very tree something was signed
ago. When the tree died it was found to have not even been an
acorn at the
time of the event!
To me, the Angel Oak and the Senator Cypress represent vigorous
excellent sites with continuously benign environmental impacts-
analogous to the giant hemlocks Jess and I have been documenting
Smokies. They are not older than other specimens- just growing
well and a
product of ideal site conditions.
BTW- I had an employee several years ago who installed lightning
on the Senator Cypress. You will notice there is no conductor
on the trunk- this is because it is installed inside the tree. He
down from the hollow top all the way to ground level.
From several examples in the Live Oak Project we have found that
years is about the ages of the largest Live Oaks. Some may be 400,
I doubt any are 1400.
The Senator is a gorgeous tree. If you get the chance to be in
area, don't miss out on a visit. If you go in warm weather, take a
bottle of DEET. Last time I went the mosquitos tried to carry us
Ended up with only a pint or so of my blood.
Thanks Will - I think you summed it up very well. Many
people equate tree size to age, but do not consideration how the
tree got so big. As Will points out, it often seems these trees
are growing in fairly ideal situations and out-perform most others
of the same species. The senator cypress could be old. It is
a possibility. But, 3500 yrs sounds unlikely, especially
considering the oldest one is a little over 1600 yrs above the
root flare. [Funny, I just got an email last week about this same
As for the live oaks being more than 1400 yrs old, that
seems much, much less likely. An investigations of a few live oaks
at an institution I used to work at showed live oaks could reach
somewhere around 2' in diameter in ~ 90 yrs. The live oak Larry
sent to me last yr reached ~ 4.2' in diameter in ~ 134 yrs.
In the eastern North America, there are no known broadleaf
species that live more than 700 yrs. Nyssa sylvatica is the
closest with an age of 679.
However, a recent paper has been published showing a baobab
digitata] radiocarbon dated to ~ 1200 yrs: http://www.rmtrr.org/oldlist.htm
Patrut, A, K F. von
Reden, D.A. Lowy, A.H. Alberts, J.W. Pohlman, R. Wittmann, D.
Gerlach, L. Xu and C.S. Mitchell. 2007. Radiocarbon dating of a
very large African baobab. Tree Physiology 27, 1569-1574.
Hope this helps,