Forest Forensics: A Wolf Tree Tells a Tale

wolf tree

While walking through a forest,  the scorned trees, and deadfall trees tell tales.  The tree pictured above lives in the forest of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

Look at the ways in which the branches spiral around the tree in all directions. The trees in the background are smaller, thinner and obviously younger than the larger tree in the center. The younger trees also are smooth and branch-less almost to the top of the tree.

What does this tell us?

1. The large center tree is older than the surrounding  trees.

2. It grew without many trees around it. How do we know this? Because the branches are on each side of the tree, which means it grew without others trees crowding it around it.

This tree is a pasture tree or a “wolf tree”. Wolf? I don’t know why, I think because it grew alone, like a lone wolf.

The Schuylkill Center was farmland until the 1950s. It is odd to think of it but the northwest section of the city of Philadelphia was covered with farms during the 1920s and end to the 1950s. So, this tree was probably a tree in a pasture with no other trees surrounding  it. It was left standing to shade cows, sheep or other livestock.


  1. If you should find yourself near Deptford NJ, you need to check out the Clement Oak behind the Deptford Wal-Mart near Big Timber Creek. There are signs to lead you to the tree. They estimate it to have sprouted between 1555 and 1615. It is massive in girth and height. I noticed that at some point copper grounding conductors added to help protect the tree from lightning damage. Other than that, I bet few people know it exists.

    • Hi Mark, Thank you for the information. We can just imagine when massive trees were the norm.

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