Yesterday I had opportunity for the first time in a long while to hike one of the county parks. Walking through the Sugarcreek Metropark I came upon its most famous residents, the Three Sisters. The Three Sisters are three white oak trees that date from about 1440AD. They are long time residents of the area. Last summer (2008) one of the Three Sisters came down in a storm, and lies impressively on her side not boasting like the fallen Ozymandias who lies lifeless in the desert sands, but in her demise being an organic part of the landscape and contributing to its continued teaming life.
At left is the youngest of the Three Sisters who still is considered to be more than 530 years old. She has been patiently looking over her neighborhood for a long time. Though early European settlers cut down the forest all around the Three Sisters, for reasons unknown to me they let the Sisters continue being an organic part of the landscape. Now they are part of the county park system.
One thing that interests me deal with genetics – I wonder if the White Oak Genome were done would the DNA from current White Oaks show any genetic markers different from this tree. Though relative to Evolutionary Time, 550 years is a short amount of time, it still is a lot of time for any living organism. I would be very curious to know whether its DNA would show any differences from trees planted today. DNA does record some changes in a species over time, and studying this tree would give us a chance to compare the genome of the White Oak over several hundred years. Such a comparison would not be looking at fossil evidence, but over aged but living DNA.
At the right is a photo of the oldest of the Three Sisters. The area around her is now roped off – to prevent us from stepping on her roots, an activity that shortens the trees life!
The tree has stayed right where it was planted in about 1440AD.
What was happening in the world at that time?
That was about the time the Little Ice Age began in the Northern Hemisphere whose effects were noted especially in Europe. So the Sisters have lived through climate change and global cooling and warming.
It is about the time that Guttenberg was inventing his printing press – that certainly led to a few forests being cut down!
It is about the time the Renaissance begins in Europe marking the end of the Medieval Age. The mighty oak is not as subject to changes as human ideas.
It is about the time that Constantinople fell to the Turks marking the end of the Byzantine Empire.
And a little closer to home it is about the time that the Inca Empire began its massive expansion in Peru.
The Three Sisters have outlived a number of kingdoms and philosophical ages as well as serious climate change. But like all things on earth they are subject to change – there was a time when they were not and such a time will come again.