Trees are not only a source of lumber and materiel for the building of houses, bridges, for fencing and a million other uses but are also a source of information for the modern scientists. Tree stumps are the repositories of secrets from ages past. Most children know that if we count the rings on a tree stump we can work out how old the tree was before it was cut down. However very few of us understand the process of how to read these old tree stumps before they are removed or even where this science originated. This modern branch of science is called Dendrochronology.
Is it Rocket Surgery?
The word Dendrochronology comes from latin, dendron from the latin for tree branch and Chronology from Khronos for time. In the last half of the 20th Century an astronomer named A.E. Douglass was puzzling over the cycle of sunspot activity. Sunspots have been observed and recorded from early history. From as long ago as the 3rd century B.C. ancient astronomers from both China and ancient Greece would regularly record sunspots. It was not until the 17th century that astronomers were able to view sunspots with a telescope. But what does all of this have to do with Tree stumps?
Well, A.E. Douglass was looking for an indicator of sunspot activities on the terrestrial earth. He reasoned that as the sun waxed and wand in its activity this fluctuation would be recorded in the growth patterns of trees. When a tree is felled and the stump left remaining, the growth rings become clearly exposed and can be read. The rings may indicate many things that have impacted upon the growth of that tree before felling. If the rings are thinner this indicates a lean, arid or hot year in the area, as the tree has been unable to grow as much as in wetter more fertile years. In fact this science is much more effective in humid areas where growth rings are larger and more readable. A.E. Douglass was also able to calibrate and check radio carbon dating using this method. So why is it rocket surgery? Because the science was spawned by an astronomer, the progenitor of rocket based sciences and to truly uncover the scope of a trees rings one generally must cut the tree down, although core drilling may also be used, thus the surgery.
The next time you see a tree stump or have one in your back yard you may wish to take the time to count the rings, look back at the natural history of the plant and see which years have been lean and which years have been plentiful. So before you have the stump grinder remove the stump with a dedicated machine, or ‘melt’ it down with potassium nitrate, or even burn or just rip the tree out with a bulldozer or like machine take a moment to gaze back in history and marvel at the ingenuity of A.E. Douglass.
Thankyou for reading this article on Stump Grinding.