Researchers Document the Oldest Known Trees in Eastern North America

A recently documented stand of bald cypress trees in North Carolina, including one tree at least 2,624 years old, are the oldest known living trees in eastern North America and the oldest known wetland tree species in the world.

Black water, white sand and millenia-old trees at Black River. (Image: Dan Griffin)
Black water, white sand, and millenia-old trees at Black River. (Image: Dan Griffin)

David Stahle, Distinguished Professor of geosciences, along with colleagues from the university’s Ancient Bald Cypress Consortium and other conservation groups, discovered the trees in 2017 in a forested wetland preserve along the Black River south of Raleigh, North Carolina. Stahle documented the age of the trees using dendrochronology, the study of tree rings, and radiocarbon dating.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

A huge cypress tree at Black River. (Image: Dan Griffin)
A huge cypress tree at Black River. (Image: Dan Griffin)

His findings were published in the journal Environmental Research Communications. The ancient trees are part of an intact ecosystem that spans most of the 65-mile length of the Black River. In addition to their age, the trees are a scientifically valuable means of reconstructing ancient climate conditions.

Ancient blad cypress trees line the Black River in North Carolina. (Image: Dan Griffin)
Ancient bald cypress trees line the Black River in North Carolina. (Image: Dan Griffin)

The oldest trees in the preserve extend the paleoclimate record in the southeast United States by 900 years, and show evidence of droughts and flooding during colonial and pre-colonial times that exceed any measured in modern times. Stahle said:

Stahle has been working in the area since 1985, and cataloged bald cypress trees as old as 1,700 years in a 1988 study published in the journal Science. His work helped preserve the area: 16,000 acres were purchased by The Nature Conservancy, a private land-conservation group that keeps most of its holdings open to the public.

An old overcup oak, also along the Black River. (Image: Dan Griffin)
An old overcup oak, also along the Black River. (Image: Dan Griffin)

Katherine Skinner, executive director of The North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, said:

For the newest study, researchers used non-destructive core samples from 110 trees found in a section of the wetland forest they had not previously visited. Stahle said:

Provided by: Bob Whitby, University of Arkansas [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

Like this article? Subscribe to our weekly email for more!     

Recommended Stories

Young boy wearing a mask.

Coronavirus Update: China Increasingly Isolated as Countries Scramble to Contain Spread

The coronavirus outbreak has killed at least 362 people globally, according to Chinese and World Health Organization ...

Two kung fu practitioners.

Kung Fu and the Meaning Behind the Symbols

The Chinese martial art of kung fu is thousands of years old. Most people only ...

Irish moss in bloom.

The Numerous Benefits of Irish Moss

Irish moss is a type of seaweed that has been in use in Ireland for ...

A Hezhen tribe member.

A Chinese Tribe That Makes Clothing From Fish

You most likely have worn clothes made from cotton and wool. But have you ever ...

Reichstag building in Berlin.

Maastricht Debt Rules: Germany’s Debt Falling Below 60 Percent

In 2019, Germany’s Debt-to-GDP ratio fell below 60 percent for the first time since 2002. ...

Passengers disembarking from airplane.

U.S. Removes Citizens From Wuhan, Isolates Them in Military Base

About 195 American citizens from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, have been evacuated according ...

Chinese wearing masks.

How Is the Coronavirus Spreading Across the Globe?

The first case of a novel strain of coronavirus has been confirmed in the United ...

Passion fruit.

Recipe: How to Prepare Passion Fruit Basil Chutney

Bored with the usual sauce for your grilled chicken and other dishes? Try out this ...

Mushrooms with basil pesto.

Baked Mushrooms with Basil Pesto

Earthy, flavorful mushrooms play an important role in both Western and Chinese cuisines. With thousands ...

Send this to a friend