Tree Talk: Mystery of the Rings

Do you hear the voice of trees ringing through these rings?

Just as rings cherished as heirlooms have tales worth several decades stored in their stones and intricate carvings, rings on a tree stump also have a mystery preserved within these concentric circles.

These circles that are so precisely and symmetrically carved in the heart of the trunk by forces of nature speak louder than any storm about the atrocities it has undergone silently over the years!

These rings that appear on the cross-section of a tree trunk can tell a lot about the kind of changes our environment has gone through. Fire, drought, floods, plague and several other environmental and climactic changes are documented in these scripts of nature hidden within trees!

Here are a few jaw-dropping mysteries that will amaze the daylights out of you!

Judge A Tree By Its Rings

Each year a tree grows new cells which mark the completion of one growing season. These annual growth rings actually show the amount of wood produced during one year and this is how these rings can be counted to calculate the age of trees. Each year, a two-part ring is formed in the trunk. It consists of a light part and a dark part. The cells that form during the beginning of the growing season develop what is called earlywood and that appears in a lighter shade compared to the latewood which grows towards the end of the growing season. The latewood is dark because cells forming at this time are small with thicker walls which give it a dark color overall.

Light and dark is how the trees sing their tale of highs and lows!

Diameters Dance To Nature’s Drumbeat

Changing Growth Rates


The diametrical growth of trees is not only a significant measure of a trees’ age. It envelops within its folds a record of the bygones. Yes! That’s right. These rings that so silently inch their way into the wood are knitting tales of how the climate has been. These include signs of soil, air, temperature, sunlight and moisture that the tree received from the environment.

Young budding trees grow much faster than a tree which is already into adulthood, much like a human infant. This disproportionate growth through the tree’s ageing process is denoted by wider or narrower rings.

Rings at the center in the innermost part of the trunks are wider suggesting rapid growth in early years, whereas rings toward the periphery are narrower and more closely aligned to suggest slower growth.

Nature and Nutrition Affecting Growth

Narrower rings can either be effectuated by unforeseen circumstances like a forest fire that impacted the crown of the tree and slowed its growth, or by lack of water and sunlight.

Rings reversing back to an earlier pattern of wider rings toward the outside, sandwiching the narrow rings in the middle suggest a move towards recovery from natural hazards and malnutrition.

Traumatic Childhood


Contrary to natural patterns of growth, if the rings at the core of the trunk are narrower than the ones toward the outside, it suggests the tree had troubled early years. This could be a result of growing up in an overcrowded area where older, taller trees canopied the air above the young sapling and deprived it of the much needed sunlight. Interestingly enough, human intervention can also change the design of rings.

For instance, if someone cuts down or trims the neighboring trees, the young one would develop wider rings to show rapid growth.

Ways Of Winds


Cross-sections may sometimes display a pattern of ring which looks like it has been blown to collect at one side of the trunk. This hypothesis is not entirely false! Rings that are not symmetrically concentric may be caused by high winds. If a tree is planted in a place facing rough winds, the side of the trunk away from the wind would grow faster thus wider rings and vice versa.

The heart of these rings is sometimes not in the center because the tree may be leaning. In response to this, the tree naturally grows reaction wood which helps erecting it upright. Thus the wider rings would be at the underside of the lean where growth was faster.

Amputated Limbs

Waves in a cross-section may also form which make the circles look wobbly and irregular. It is important in this case to observe the direction of these waves. If the waves are moving away from the bark on one side to another, it might be due to a branch breaking off.

It shows that these mysterious rings do not just hide the tale of what life threw at them but also narrate what fate took away from them! Lack of firmness in the rings also shows how the tree mourns the loss of an amputated limb!

Trees Inc. of Denton is a tree service provider working in the industry for over 35 years in the areas of Denton, Lewisville, Corinth, Flower Mound, and Highland Village in Texas. Our insured and licensed services are aimed at restoring the health of trees and improving the aesthetic look of your yard. We offer stump grinding, tree removal and relocation, and tree trimming in Lewisville, Texas as well as other surrounding areas. We work round the clock to assist any emergency situations that your tree might face.

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