Nova Scotia Journal

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Nova Scotia’s hemlock Maritimes records 532-year-old oldest tree

Nova Scotia's hemlock Maritimes

Key Takeaways:

  • Hemlock began to grow eight years before John Cabot’s expedition to North America.
  • As a result, Nova Scotia has only a tiny amount of old-growth forest left.

However, thanks to this summer’s research, the province can now claim to have the oldest tree on record in the Maritimes. It’s 532-year-old eastern hemlock in a stand northwest of Hubbards near the South Panuke Wilderness Area. The Bowater Mersey Paper Company used to own the land. The parcel, along with many others, was purchased by the province in 2012.

This summer, forest researchers from Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources and Renewables sampled cores from approximately 100 trees in a small old-growth stand.

A Dalhousie University student, Meaghan Pollock, approached colleague Emily Woudstra after counting the rings on one tree sample. “‘I think we’ve aged [this tree] to 500 years old,’ she said, and I was like, ‘No way!’ ‘I don’t think so.’ “Woudstra stated. “So go show Brad, and I’d like to count this later as well.”

Brad Butt, a forest researcher, didn’t believe it either until he examined the sample more closely.

532-year-old oldest tree

“There’s some excitement there,” Butt said. “You kind of Stopping the clock for a minute allowed everyone to take a good look at it.” The province sent a sample to Mount Allison University’s Ben Phillips to determine the tree’s age. Phillips is a Dendrochronology or tree ring expert.

During a recent video chat, Phillips stated, “This tree has 532 measurable tree rings.” “I measured each of them under a microscope to the thousandth of a millimeter.”

“Some of those rings were only two to three cells wide.” However, many of those rings were so closely spaced together indicates that the tree grew slowly. According to Phillips, this made the wood extremely strong.

He compared it to common building material. “You wouldn’t buy two or three plies of plywood,” he explained. “You buy plywood with maybe ten plies.” “It has many layers, which makes it strong.” The same is true for ancient trees. When they have these tiny tree rings, the rings become more robust.”

Not everyone agrees that the proposed protections are adequate, but the fact that the province can now boast of having the oldest tree in the region may bolster the argument that there is something worth preserving. Bush, as a research manager, is certainly sold on continuing to protect this particular stand. “It’s a one-of-a-kind area. It’s a one-of-a-kind forest stand, and we will do our best to keep it healthy.”

Source: CBC News

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