View Full Version : 600-year old oak tree in New Jersey

Mark Sampson
28-Jun-2016, 18:05
Saw a front-page article in today's Washington Post about a 600 year old white oak tree in Basking Ridge, NJ. Apparently it's in decline, might not be around much longer. The fuzzy snapshot they printed suggests that it would be a good subject for a LF photographer. Anybody have pictures of this? Please share them. Anybody within reach of this ancient (relatively) monument? Sounds like a real opportunity that, sadly, I can't take advantage of.

28-Jun-2016, 19:22
Here's a link to the Washington Post article:


28-Jun-2016, 19:31
I was hanging out with trees twice that age all last week. But they all are amazing!

Steven Tribe
29-Jun-2016, 01:42
White oaks have can have a healthy life up to about 400 years. After that, they are in general decline due to storm damage and resultant fungal attack. The main trunk is reduced to a shell and there are only a few growth/leafing points.

The fact that only a few seem to have survived is due to centuries of harvesting for house building and shipbuilding. Even the squat trees which grew up in open spaces could be used for "corner pieces" in boat building. The oldest tree in Denmark which can be dated (yearly growth rings) was a seedling in the 1160's. Another tree is estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years has received a new lease of life as it has been grafted onto new stock!


So this is what the New Jersey oak will look like in a few hundred years!

Mark Sampson
29-Jun-2016, 05:18
Back in 1997, I made a photograph of a 600-year-old oak tree; not surprisingly, the tree is in the New Forest, in the south of England. They have a fence around it, and my photo is not the greatest, but it was still quite a sight. The one in New Jersey is quite a bit more accessible... maybe I can get up that way, but one of us should, for sure.

Alan Klein
29-Jun-2016, 08:00
Queens in NY had one taken down recently. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/historic-rotting-600-year-old-white-oak-uprooted-queens-article-1.380828

There was another on Long Island that I photographed and then it fell down in a storm. But I don't know where my photo is.

Alan Klein
29-Jun-2016, 08:08
OK found the info. It was a black oak around 550 years old. This web page is from 2006. The tree fell down afterwards. The cables just couldn't hold it together anymore in a storm.


Drew Wiley
29-Jun-2016, 10:29
I had a huge white oak, what we call a "water oak" that was probably huge, leaning over a spring, even back when Indian encampments were there. Our well was directly below. When those things get old they hollow out, and it finally snapped - right into the wellhead! So we did the only thing we could - call up a bunch of hill people to help us winch it out and section it, in return for half the firewood. Then of course, a big chainsaw was used to square off the stump, giving me opportunity to slowly count the rings. It was almost 400 years old. Not old by Sequoia standards, further up the hill, but still, it witnessed an incredible amount of history. The Indians preferred the acorns from the smaller blue oaks instead; and as a child, they were still harvesting them from our yard to grind up, leech in handwoven baskets, and turn into acorn mush. Some of the grandchildren who accompanied those old women now own giant casinos - stone age to sportscars in a single generation!

29-Jun-2016, 11:52
I prefer George Tice's version.

Peter Lewin
29-Jun-2016, 15:08
Anybody have pictures of this? Please share them. Anybody within reach of this ancient (relatively) monument? Sounds like a real opportunity that, sadly, I can't take advantage of.
The 600-year-old White Oak is about 25 minutes from my house. Prompted by Mark's post, I went over this afternoon, and came back with 6 holder's worth of negatives, to be developed over the next day or two. While I was taking pictures, one of the church staff came over to chat, it turns out that three different television crews came by at different times today, the tree is becoming a national story. I had seen an article on its apparent poor health in the local paper at least a month ago, but now it has hit the Washington Post, as well as being mentioned on WINS radio, the NYC regional news station.

Here is a panorama I made in 2007, when the tree was in good health. The actual print I have framed is a composite made by physically mounting two 11x14 prints from 4x5 negatives (HP5+, PMK for the curious) side-by-side, with some trimming to make the join "disappear." What I have posted, however, is from a straight pair of negative scans merged in Photoshop, since I couldn't think of another way to post the image the way I intended it to look when I made the two exposures:

https://c5.staticflickr.com/8/7456/27953189916_dd1cc6ca3c_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/JA8puh)baskingridgeoak2007-pano (https://flic.kr/p/JA8puh) by Peter Lewin (https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterlewin/), on Flickr

Bob Salomon
29-Jun-2016, 15:32
I prefer George Tice's version.

You mean his Holmdale oak? That is a different tree in a different county then this white oak.

29-Jun-2016, 16:39
a lot of oaks in RI fell last year in a huge windstorm that was like a tornado ( microburst )
a lot of the trees looked healthy, even the few hundred year old ones, but the fallen trees showed
rot in the center of the trees ( like they were hollow ) .. maybe it is a phenomenon
thes days because of the warmer weather we have been getting ...

Mark Sampson
29-Jun-2016, 18:43
great work.
I look forward to seeing more of your recent pictures!

30-Jun-2016, 04:36
I prefer George Tice's version.


Andrew O'Neill
1-Jul-2016, 10:57
I read about this tree on facebook. It's a treasure! It reminded me of a 600 year old tree in Japan that I photographed a few times. If only they could talk, eh!

1-Jul-2016, 19:33
If only they could talk, eh!

"Feed me, Seymour!"

23-Aug-2016, 04:20
Amazing tree. It's so cool to see this miracle of nature. :)