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Desert Diary
Plants/Tree Tales


Most people know that our Southwestern trees usually lay down one ring each year, so by counting the rings, you can tell how old the tree is. But did you know some of the other things a tree can tell?

Fires in our mountain forests often scar the trunks of trees without killing them. Thanks to the tree rings, we can tell when such a fire occurred, and by looking at a lot of trees, we can pretty much determine how frequently fires swept an area. Since many of our mountain trees are hundreds of years old, we can even gain some insight as to how often forest fires struck before European man entered the scene.

As living things, trees react to changes. A landslide or powerful storm may tilt the trunk of a tree. As the tree struggles to return to the vertical, the new rings grow thicker on the under side. And, thanks to the tree ring clock, we can even tell when it happened. Little did you know the tales that trees can tell!
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.