PE Ledger

The oldest tree in the Maritimes is a 532-year-old N.S hemlock

Hemlock began to develop eight years prior to John Cabot’s expedition to North America.

Only a tiny portion of Nova Scotia’s old-growth forest remains.

However, owing to a study conducted this summer, the province can now claim ownership of the oldest tree in the Maritimes.

It’s 532-year-old eastern hemlock in a stand northwest of Hubbards, not far from the South Panuke Wilderness Area.

The Bowater Mersey Paper Company used to possess the site. The lot, along with many others, was purchased by the province in 2012.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources and Renewables obtained core samples from around 100 trees in a small old-growth stand this summer.

Meaghan Pollock, a Dalhousie University student, approached colleague Emily Woudstra after counting the rings on one tree sample.

“‘I suppose we’ve aged [this tree] to 500 years old,’ she remarked, and I was like, ‘No way!’ ‘I don’t think so,’ says the narrator, “Woudstra stated. “So go show Brad, and I’d want to count this as well.”

Brad Butt, a forest expert, was sceptical as well until he examined the sample more closely.

“Yeah, there’s obviously some intrigue there,” Butt added. “You kind of… paused the clock for a minute, and everyone took a good look at it.”

Woudstra double-checked the ring count to be sure it was proper.

“There was a buzz in the office, and people started asking if they could view the core sample as well.”

‘532 measurable tree rings.’

The province sent the sample to Mount Allison University’s Ben Phillips to confirm the tree’s age. Phillips is a dendrochronologist, which is a tree ring expert.

During a recent live conference, Phillips noted, “This tree has 532 measured tree rings.” “I measured every single one of them to a thousandth of a millimeter under a microscope.”

“The width of some of the rings was only two to three cells.”

The fact that several of those rings were so close together indicates that the tree grew slowly. According to Phillips, this made the wood extremely tough.

He compared it to popular construction material.

He explained, “You wouldn’t buy a piece of plywood with two or three plies.” “You get plywood with… maybe ten plies on it.”

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