Have you ever looked at a beautiful tree and wondered how long it’s been alive and what it’s lived through? Long ago, scientists wondered the same thing. That is why they created dendrochronology, the dating and study of tree rings.
By studying the inside rings of various trees, scientists can tell what type of climate the tree has experienced during its growth. For example, wet conditions usually produce wider rings on the tree, whereas narrow rings can indicate a drought. Trees growing within the same geographical zones will have similar growth rings because of the climate conditions.
Early annual growth can be seen by a lighter color within a ring. Latewood is typically the darker color seen where one ring ends and another begins. Trees produce rings annually in most species. Larger cells are more visible in new wood and tend to shrink in size the farther out the band gets to the latewood growth.
A benefit of dendrochronology is crossdating, the practice of matching various ring patterns of size and density to those with similar ring characteristics in order to determine the exact year in which each ring was formed. Crossdating can be used to identify the age of ancient artifacts and buildings. It’s also one of the main principles of dendrochronology. This is just one example of how important trees are in helping to preserve our history.