As recounted in my December 2012 posting, Hurricane Sandy blew over a number of large trees in the Kilmer Woods section of the EcoPreserve. However, no ill wind goes unstudied. In order to clear the trails of downed trees, we had to chainsaw a number of large red, white and black oak trunks. We recently went back to cut “cookies” from a several of these downed boles or stumps to be able to age the trees and fill in some of the pieces concerning Kilmer Woods history. The tree in the photo above was nearly 3 feet in diameter and approximately 160 years old.
Based on tree rings and other evidence such as scattered red cedar stumps and snags, it would appear that the Kilmer Woods was most likely abandoned pasture that was let return to forest sometime in the mid-1800’s. This initial forest consisted of a mix of oak and red cedar during the latter half of the 1800’s. The oaks grew rapidly in the open sunlit environment with some growth rings 5+ mm in width. Around 1900, the forest canopy started to close with 100+ year old oak trees showing a much slower growth rate during their initial establishment years. Other tree species such as beech also became established around this time. The red cedars were eventually overtopped and shaded out though they appear to last quite a while in the understory. With highly decay resistant wood, the red cedar stumps and snags have lasted to the present day. Many of these stumps show evidence of past understory fires.