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Plant Focus

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A guest post by Matt Candeias, host of the In Defense of Plants podcast and blog

Oak Wood Samples and Growth Rate

At Starhill Forest Arboretum we have been working to catalog and label some of the oak wood samples Guy Sternberg has collected so we can make better use of them for programs. It's important that all the information about this interesting collection is somewhere other than in Guy's head! 

The top sample in the photo below is from a Q. muehlenbergii cut from a hill prairie in Mason County, Illinois in 1992. The terrain is a series of hills and ravines. Over time, the woody species tend to move up the slopes, encroaching on the prairies. Volunteers were doing some clearing to maintain the prairies, and this Q. muehlenbergii was among the trees that were removed. It is somewhat surprising to see that the tree was growing so quickly, on a dry, south-facing slope.

However, it would have had little competition from other woody species and plenty of sun. The sample below is Q. stellata and came from Guy's parents' farm in St. James, MO. Unfortunately, the tree died and was removed in 1995. While cutting it, Guy noticed the dense rings and decided to age it. After a very challenging ring count, it was determined that the tree dated to 1784! The oak grew incredibly slowly on typical Ozark rocky clay.


The photo on the right (click on the photos to have a closer look) compares three species, from the top - Q. palustris from Shoal Creek barrens, a site we will visit on the IOS Pre-Tour. It was cut in 2001. This tree initially grew very quickly as is common for palustris in a good site, but slowed greatly towards its last ~40 years. The middle piece is Q. pagoda from Magnolia Cemetery, in Coldwater, Mississippi, cut in 1994. Of these samples, this one has the most consistent fast growth. The bottom piece is the Q. muehlenbergii from the first photograph.