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Bradbury Science Museum

Exhibits up close: What “wood” we learn from the rings of a tree?

Behind the scenes @theBradbury.
December 4, 2017
timeline for the tree slice

A detail for the timeline for the tree slice that shows the history of this particular tree.

Slow growth can indicate stress from a number of different sources.

In 1677 Antonie van Leeuwenhoek discovered the spermatozoon, the population of Paris exceeded half a million people for the first time, and a tree started to grow on our own Pajarito Mountain. Three hundred and forty years later, you can see a slice from that tree in our Museum’s Research Gallery.

The tree sample is part of an exhibit on the Laboratory’s ongoing environmental research into the life and death of trees and how climate factors might hasten their demise. Given the many benefits of trees, understanding how and why they eventually die could help protect their longevity—and our own.

As you can see within the image above, the rings to the right show us that during the last hundred years of its life, this particular tree was subjected to stress from overcrowding and drought during each year’s growing season, slowing the tree’s growth. Slow growth can indicate stress from a number of different sources.

This particular Douglas Fir eventually died in 2011, but it now helps our visitors learn more about our environment, so, in a way, it lives on.