St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

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Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Post by anthony.j.mills » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:43 pm

John White's research and computational methodology is based on large numbers of Forestry Commission records of actual ring counts correlated with girth. It is certainly fully accepted here. I would remind you that GB has 80% of the ancient trees in Europe, a consequence of our landuse practices in the past which favoured their retention. The Ancient Tree Hunt [ATH]has so far recorded upwards of 100,000 trees in 3 categories, notable, veteran and ancient. [Pedersen quotes ''several''] Many ancient trees have verifiable historical records which attest to the relationship between age and girth, records of up to 940 years, which I would suggest are impossible in the USA. There is an oak not a mile from here which was recorded in William the Conquerors Domesday book in 1068, and subsequently in the Chertsey Cartulary. Ask anyone associated with dendrochronology of ancient trees in Britain [Tree Register of the British Isles; Veteran Tree Inititive; ATH] and they will tell you that this methodology is not garbage but fully supported by the evidence and their considerable experience with truly ancient trees.

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michael gatonska
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Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Post by michael gatonska » Sat Jun 09, 2012 6:42 am

Hi Edward,
Well, I guess I can scratch the White article off of my to-do list!

I did find the PDF of the Neil Pederson piece that you mentioned - in case anyone would like look it over (I know I will read it): ... derson.pdf

Michael Gatonska
“What is essential, is invisible to the eye” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery ... sults_main

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Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Post by Chris » Sat Jun 09, 2012 2:45 pm

Here are your old Chestnut Oak [from Neil's site]

Click on image to see its original size
I also love this picture

Click on image to see its original size
Dr. Jim Rentch [L] and Chad Smith in front of a 54.4 cm DBH,350 yrs old whose annual radial growth exceeded 2 mm only once!

Jeroen Philippona
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Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Post by Jeroen Philippona » Sun Jun 10, 2012 9:54 am


I don't think you are right with your term "garbage". Of course it is well known from dendrochronology and other tree- as well as forestry-science that there is no simple diamter - age relationship. But, when comparing trees of one species wich have grown in similar circumstances there can be found a relationship. The oldest found Q. montana are probably old growth, forest grown trees on rather poor soil, so shaded by other trees with relatively long trunks and small crowns and root systems. Indeed it is a tendency that within a species the oldest specimen are found among slow grown trees on poor soils, probably also with other kinds of stress.
The extremely tall Q. petraea of the planted forest of Bercé in France I wrote about recently have been researched on age by coring: 18 trees were cored and between 288 and 326 years in 2001. They had diameters of 67.2 to 96.1 cm. The medium ring width was 1 mm for a very long period. This rather slow diameter growth can be explained by the very dense planting with high competiotion pressure on a medium good soil. After storm damage and following harvasting resulting in a decrease of stand density in 1967, 1968 and 1991 the trees reacted with quicker diameter growth.
Of course these forest oaks cannot be compared with open grown trees with short trunks and huge crowns.
A huge Q. petraea in Shobdon, Herefordshire, England with a cbh of 35 feet (10.69 m) in 2006, so diameter of 11.14 ft / 340 cm (height was 27 m - 88 ft before the tree collapsed for a great deal a few years ago; it still lives with a very ruined, small crown left), had grown in cbh from cbh 20.5 ft (625 cm) in 1870. This meant a growth in circumference of 14.5 ft / 444 cm in 136 years, 3.26 cm a year. So the rings at this height have been 5.2 mm wide in medium.
When this was a lifelong growthspeed (the centre of the tree was hollow, so the older rings could not be counted) the oak could have been under 200 years in 1870 so under 336 year in 2005.
Problem with extremely large trees is that they often are hollow, so that the oldest treerings cannot be researched.
The verifiable historical ages Anthony writes about I doubt as realy verifiable, but there have been Q. robur in Sherwood cored with up to 481 rings in one tree, wich had lost the sapwood already, at least.


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Will Blozan
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Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Post by Will Blozan » Sun Jun 10, 2012 12:02 pm


I had a similar "gut" reaction but remember, the White method is for OPEN-GROWN trees. It certainly cannot be extrapolated to trees other than those studied or in different climates or continents.


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Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Post by edfrank » Sun Jun 10, 2012 1:30 pm

NTS, Anthony, Jeroen,

Perhaps garbage it too strong of a word. As was noted above the determinations have been made for one group of trees, open grown, in a small area, with a comparatively uniform climate. England, for example is slightly smaller than the state of Oregon. The variations of climate here in the US are much more dramatic and variable even within a smaller area. The variations within a forest in tree sized are dependent on a wide variety of factors besides age including: water availability, soil composition, bedrock composition, nature of surrounding trees, fire history, suppression and release events. There is not a single rule can hope to determine age of trees based upon size values. I sincerely question the validity of the method even for the area White is suggesting.

I would assume he used the data from some known tree ages to develop his age versus size algorithm. Naturally if you plug the trees used to derive the algorithm back into the formula there will be a general match between the modeled and actual ages. I wonder how many trees were used to determine the relationships, and how well individual trees within the data set actually matched to the predictions as opposed to the amalgamation of them considered together?

I wonder how many ancient trees there which accurate age counts can be taken were compared to the model, not including those used to develop the size-age relationship, and how well they actually matched the predictions? When you eliminate those with hollow centers requiring extrapolation to determine ages, I bet there were not many. In general people supporting a particular model tend to cite the examples where it worked as opposed to those who show problems with a model.

If you can show that the model actually works, I will be happy support its implementation where it is workable. To do this would require a spreadsheet of all of the ancient trees for which ages can be determined through historical records, or actual physical ring counts compared to the ages determined by the model based upon diameter. The trees used to calibrate the model certainly should be included, but they could not serve to test the validity of the model. A table of cherry picked results including only those trees which matched the model would not be acceptable. Perhaps a list of actual tree ages from a separate listing not directly involved with proving or disproving the model. There is an ancient tree registry - are there ages listed for the dead trees or cored trees with notes on how the ages were determined to eliminate hollow centered extrapolations.

I really would be quite pleased if the method did work, I am just skeptical.

Edward Frank
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Post by tclikesbigtrees » Thu Oct 31, 2013 2:32 pm

This past August my family and I got to see the Old Senator. It is an impressive tree for sure. But the most impressive live oak that I have seen close up is the one at Lake Griffin State Park. My family and I walked up to it and my kids were able to climb it. It was amazing to be able to see it up close and personal (so to speak).

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Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Post by billtmore » Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:01 pm

Hi, i joined the forum to add to this thread. i was over in st Augustine this past weekend and measured the tree 24 feet in circumference give or take a half of foot. The reason I was curious is I just bought an old house in Tallahassee it has a Live oak that is also 24 feet in circumference. Though mine splits into 2 trunks about 7 feet up. Love the thought odf the tree being 200-250 years old

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