by Crystal Cockman
September 7, 2017
A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip with the Friends of Plant Conservation on the Black River near Wilmington. The Black River is home to the oldest trees east of the Rocky Mountains. These are bald cypress trees, which are known to grow to a very old age. Bald cypress trees have a unique feature known as knees, which are portions of the tree that grow away from the trunk and stick up out of the water, which are believed to be important for the structural integrity of the tree to hold it up, and also important in gas exchange.
University of Arkansas professor David Stahle discovered the Black River trees by accident in the 1980s. He was studying old growth tree rings and climate and found the trees on the Black River. Many are more than 500 years old. The oldest identified tree, scientifically labeled BLK69 and locally known as Methuselah, dates back to 364 AD. There are probably other trees that are even older, but core rot prevents them from being able to be aged. There could easily be trees that are more than 2000 years old. Some of the trees are more than 8 feet across. [Read more…]