How Old Are You Mr.Tree?

General Sherman Tree, the largest tree by volume on earth, 275 feet high.

Tim was elated today. Finally, he was going to visit the Sequoia National Park with his dad. Once there, they planned to go for a tree trail. The park in California is famous for its giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman tree, one of the largest trees on Earth. Tim had wanted to see the place ever since his best friend Jim told him about it. Jim just couldn’t stop talking about the majestic trees at the park.

Sequoia National Park - Giant sequoia's all along the way

The trail was a rather easy walk with many giant sequoias along the way. They all looked enormous and really old. But how old they must be? Tim wondered how scientists make out how old a tree is. Trees can’t talk aloud and tell when they were born. He decided to ask his father.

Tim’s father told him that trees don’t talk but even in their silence they do tell a lot about their age. For instance, when a tree is cut, there are rings on the trunk. Most trees have a double colored ring. Every ring represents one year of tree’s life. Scientists count the number of rings to count the age of the tree.

Tree rings

“But does that mean you have to chop a tree down to know its age?” Tim asked sadly. “What if we want to know the age of a perfectly healthy tree that is standing upright?”  He asked in the same breath.

Dad told Tim that there was another way in which a specific tool called borer (usually used to make a hole in something) is used. The tool bores out a sample from the tree – starting from the bark to the centre of the tree called pith. Rings are visible in the sample that is removed from the tree. Again, the rings can be counted to reveal the tree’s age.

Tree borer

He also explained Tim that there was another much evolved scientific method called radiocarbon dating which is used to approximate a tree’s age.

They were just a few steps away from General Sherman. Tim was stunned to see one of the largest trees on Earth.  It was a whopping 275ft tall and 102ft in circumference at the base of the trunk. He couldn’t stop touching it and running around it.

“Dad, can you guess how old General Sherman is?” Tim shrieked.

“It is between 2,300 and 2,700 years old.”  Tim announced with a grin on his face.

That was Tim’s best outing ever!

 

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