St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

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#1)  St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Postby michael gatonska » Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:15 pm

Due to the tropical storm that hit northeast Florida during the time of my visit (I was staying in the First Coast region of the state), I had to cancel two days out of the four that I had scheduled to be exploring the Ocala National Forest.  So, with heavy rains in the forecast, I headed to St. Augustine to explore Flagler College, visit the Lightner Museum, walk through the Memorial Presbyterian Church, and eventually wander around the tiny streets to check out some Spanish Colonial era buildings, as well as some elite 19th century architecture.

But my first planned stop, and the most important, was to check out the Old Senator.  Strangely enough, this live oak tree sits smack dab in the middle of the parking lot at a Howard Johnson hotel.  Nonetheless, from what I have looked up about the tree, it has been core tested to be no less than 600 years old. If you do visit the city, you've got to set aside some time to see this historic, grand, and beautiful live oak.

Personally, I have never seen a tree in Florida with this kind of grandeur, and if I may say it, wisdom. It was absolutely the most impressive live oak I have ever seen (although please note that I have not travelled extensively through the state, so I am far from being an expert on the matter). Still, I found the Old Senator awesome to witness, and for me nothing else could compare with it on this day.  

I would also like to recommend walking down Magnolia Avenue, which is very beautiful little street in the city lined with Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) growing upon some old and beautifully shaped examples of Quercus virginiana.
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Self-portrait with the Old Senator
IMG_2722.JPG
the Old Senator seen from Magnolia Ave - it literally dwarfs the hotel
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#2)  Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Postby Larry Tucei » Wed Jun 06, 2012 8:06 pm

Michael,  Beautiful Live Oak, from the photos it looks to be about 20-25' in Cir. I would question the age and the coring. Live Oaks are extremely difficult to core due to their density.  Many times the ages of Live Oaks are greatly enhanced for publicity. Based on what I've learned from measuring Live Oaks these last 6 years I would guess more like 200 years old, 300 could be possible but 600, I doubt it. Still a fantastic tree and thanks for posting on it. There is bigger Live Oak in Jacksonville called the Treaty Oak, it is older than the Old Senator. I've been meaning to get over to that area of Florida, there are several Live Oaks just like the Old Senator and larger.       Larry

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#3)  Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Postby jamesrobertsmith » Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:48 pm

The live oak was my dad's favorite tree. Of course he was born and raised on the coastal plains of Georgia, so it's only natural that would be his favorite.

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#4)  Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Postby michael gatonska » Thu Jun 07, 2012 12:04 pm

Hi Larry; thank you for writing, and to be quite honest, I am not sure if the 600 years is true or not - I held that information to be a bit suspect when first I read it.  Still, when I think about it, even an existance of 200 or 300 years is quite remarkable, particularly considering that this tree is situated in a hotel parking lot.  For that, I suppose we can be thankful for the 'tall-tale' publicity.  In any event, it is a terrific tree to see.  I had read about the Treaty Oak in a past posting by Hook, and although I have not seen that particular one in Jacksonville, it looks like another stunning live oak to check out.

I am attaching another photo, hoping that it might give you a better bead on the possible circumference of the Old Senator?  Michael
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closer view of the trunk of Old Senator
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#5)  Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Postby Larry Tucei » Thu Jun 07, 2012 1:29 pm

Michael,  From the listing of 200 Live Oaks in the 19-33' Circumference the Old Senator judging from the photo to be somewhere in the bottom half of the listing. I would estimate somewhere around 200 years old. Thanks for the photo. One example of a 300 year old Live Oak.  Larry
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Josephhine Stewart at Oak Alley in Louisiana

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#6)  Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Postby dbhguru » Thu Jun 07, 2012 3:55 pm

Larry,

  Any chance of getting the address of the manufacturer of the miniaturized Larry Tucei Jr. look alike dolls, like the one next to that shrub?

  Seriously, that is one huge chunk of wood.

Bob
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Native Native Tree Society
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Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
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#7)  Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Postby anthony.j.mills » Thu Jun 07, 2012 8:24 pm

There is an old ''rule of thumb' in the UK for estimating the age of open-grown native broadleaves which are not juvenile or senescent: the age is roughly equivalent to the girth in inches.  So assuming that a native oak in the US, even in a sub-tropical zone [which isn't necessarily more productive of growth than a temperate climate], will be more or less similar, then a 20' girth would be about 240 years and a 33' girth very nearly 400.  There is a Forestry Commission Information Note ''Estimating the age of large and veteran trees in Britain'' by John White, which gives a more complex calculation method based on the annual incremental area of wood laid down in each ring by a fully functioning canopy, with variations calculable for decline in over-maturity and retrenchment and according to the history of the site and environmental conditions for the trees growth, which may have some application to veteran trees in the US.  It has the advantage of being non-invasive.

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#8)  Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Postby michael gatonska » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:23 am

Wow Larry, that is a huge tree!

Anthony; thank you for citing the Forestry Commission Information Note ''Estimating the age of large and veteran trees in Britain'' by John White - I am going to check if I can find it online, so I appreciate your mention of it.
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#9)  Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Postby Jeroen Philippona » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:25 pm

Michael, Larry and others,

Here is the article of John White.
               
                       
Estimating age of trees.pdf
                                               
(192.28 KiB) Downloaded 107 times
               
               

I think it is rather good, although you should not use its rules to get an accurate age of a tree. Much depends on growing conditions and species. The big oak with Larry is the biggest of Oak Alley at the Missisippi, Louisiana, over 30 feet CBH and just over 300 years (planted around 1705 - 1710 (am I right, Larry?) so it grew 3 cm (1.2 inche) a year. It probably has near optimum growing conditions for the species (climate, soil).

The Senator looks as if it is 20 - 25 ft around, and it could have grown a bit slower than the Oak Alley oak. But 600 years doesn't look reliable to me either. I should say 250 years. In the Netherlands an open grown English oak (Quercus robur) of 23 ft girth with a large crown (height 75 ft, crownspread 130 ft) lost a very large branche in 2007. We could measure the yearrings (6 ft from the trunk; the branche started from a height of 13 ft): 211. So the oak was around 230 - 240 years old.  

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#10)  Re: St. Augustine, the Old Senator, May 2012

Postby edfrank » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:47 pm

Michael,

I would completely ignore the article on estimating tree ages by tree diameter by White.  Ask anyone involved with dendrochronology and they will tell you that process is garbage.  It is worse than garbage because people using it think because they have a methodology that it is somehow better than a guess.

in Pederson, Neil (2010).  External Characteristics of Old Trees in the Eastern Deciduous Forest.  Natural Areas Journal,  Volume 30 (4), 2010.

Finally, a common misconception is that trees with large diameters are old. While this can be the case, it is striking how the oldest, well-documented trees tend to gravitate around an average diameter for the species or site. Figure 3 in Black et al. (2008) shows that the older trees across four genera were not the largest trees and were, in fact, within the average range for diameter. Similarly, many tree species have an asymptotic relationship between diameter and age (e.g., Platt et al. 1988; Pederson 1994; Meldahl et al. 1999). These studies generally show that as the relationship between diameter at breast height (dbh) and age increases positively for the first ca. 100 years, the relationship plateaus and becomes poorly correlated at greater ages.

Observations of several 410 to 428 yr old Q. montana undercuts the “tree size indicates age” concept. Diameters of the oldest-documented Q. montana within three regions of the EDF ranged from only 47.1 cm to 62.8 cm dbh (Figure 5), far shy of the species’ diameter capacity of 183 cm dbh (McQuilkin 1990). Larger trees often have larger crowns and, likely, larger roots systems, which make them better competitors and faster-growing trees. The take-home lesson is that while large trees can be old, size does not connote age (e.g., Harper 1977; Baker 2003).


Anthony, this is not meant as a personal attack on you.  I appreciate that you created an account and posted about the issue.  I just think the paper you cite is completely wrong with respect to tree age estimates.  I would really like to see you to continue to participate in these discussions, even if you and I disagree on certain issues.

Edward Frank

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