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Name: DAN
Status: other
Grade: other
Location: MO
Country: USA
Date: Summer 2013

I have a section of tree trunk given to me that I would like to preserve. It is a ground level portion, maybe 150 pounds. It has been 100% exposed trunk and base root system for many years at 7800 foot altitude from the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The trees in the immediate area are Pondersa Pines, Douglas Firs, Rocky Mountain Junipers .... Our 1st suspicion is a Roky Mountain Juniper. How can I preserve this tree trunk knowing it will be vulnerable to summer heat, humifity and insects ? I intend to use it at a decorative piece in my yard. Also, any suggestions on who to contact to determine its age ?


You recognize that any dead formerly living organism faces "clean-up" activity by the decomposers. We are often grossed-out by evidence of their activity, but we rely on them to break down materials and keep the environment livable. Your task in wanting to preserve a piece of wood headed otherwise to the work of the decomposers is to make it unavailable to them. This could include physical removal of the wood to a place where the decomposers cannot reach it (display table in dry area inside shelter) or some other means to keep it out of the clutches of the decomposers. If you really wish to keep it outdoors, it will take continued activity to keep the decomposers at bay. I'd display it on a structure which would keep it lifted just slightly off the surface of the ground which could help prevent rot. I'd coat it twice a year thoroughly and completely with polyurethane. Effectively this will keep the wood coated in a thin but water- (and hopefully decomposer-) resistant film. Because of the harsh actions of the sun on the coating, however, it will need to be re-applied in order to keep moisture and the decomposers out.

I think what you are attempting is doable, it will just take ongoing effort to maintain it in its present condition. Lacking that effort, the decomposers will be happy to help you out in returning the component materials to the environment :)

Thanks for using NEWTON! Ric Rupnik

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the question. In order to determine the age of the tree, you can count the number of rings that are present. I would do a few countings from different locations on the trunk since some rings will be hard to see. My father, a woodworker, recommends a shellac or paraffin wax be applied to the wood to prevent deterioration. For further details, I would recommend consultation of a woodworking website.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have more questions. Thanks Jeff

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