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All About Tree Rings

The history of a tree is written in its tree rings. By looking at tree rings humans are able to determine the age of a tree. Generally, a ring represents approximately one year in the life of a tree. Tree rings can also reveal the occurrence of a drought, a rainy season, insect infestation, or even a fire. The study of tree rings, or dendrochronology, allows scientists to determine the particular environmental conditions present during a tree's life.

After a tree is planted, it's nourished by the sun and rain. As a tree gets older, its trunk expands with layers of new wood. The cells contained within the wood of a tree play an important role in the formation of tree rings. For example, light colored tree rings have large cells that indicate a period of a lot of growth. Alternatively, dark colored tree rings have smaller cells and reflect a time when the tree's growth slowed down. A person looking at the light and dark patterns of tree rings is able to determine the rate of growth of a tree throughout its lifetime.

Tree Rings

The examination of tree rings can reveal a number of environmental circumstances. For example, there may be a gathering of very thin tree rings. This configuration of tree rings may indicate a period of drought when the tree's growth slowed down. A collection of wide tree rings points to a rainy season when plenty of growth took place. Furthermore, tree rings sometimes display scars. A scar may indicate that a tree lived through a fire, experienced an infestation of insects, or perhaps had a disease. In addition, during a tree's life other trees can grow up around it and compete with it for the vital elements of sunlight and water. This competition can serve to slow a tree's growth causing it to develop narrow tree rings for a period of years. The appearance of a tree's rings reveals its various periods of growth. 

There are a few ways that scientists examine a tree's rings. Many scientists study a tree's rings after a tree has fallen. A tree's rings can also be looked at by taking a sample from a living tree. First, a very thin portion is drilled out with a boring tool. The scientist then tends to the hole leaving the tree to continue its growth. As a consequence, a scientist can get a quick look at the history of a tree.

Tree rings help us to learn about some of the oldest trees in our environment. By examining the types of tree rings as well as their patterns, a scientist can reconstruct the history of a tree. Tree rings reveal the significant events in a tree's life. 

For more information on tree rings and dendrochronology, please visit:

Facts about a Tree's Life

Learning about Tree Rings

Climate and Tree Rings

Tree Ring Information

Analyzing Tree Rings

Facts about Dendrochronology

A Look at Dendrochronology

All about Dendrochronolgy 

Tree Ring Organization

A Fun Tree Ring Activity


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