Original Paper

Annals of Forest Science

, Volume 68, Issue 5, pp 993-1003

First online:

Age determination of large live trees with inner cavities: radiocarbon dating of Platland tree, a giant African baobab

  • Adrian PatrutAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, Babes-Bolyai University Email author 
  • , Karl F. von RedenAffiliated withNOSAMS Facility, Department of Geology & Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • , Robert Van PeltAffiliated withCollege of Forest Resources, Box 352100, University of Washington
  • , Diana H. MayneAffiliated withBaobab Trust
  • , Daniel A. LowyAffiliated withFlexEl, LLC
  • , Dragos MargineanuAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, Babes-Bolyai University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



For large trees without a continuous sequence of growth rings in their trunk, such as the African baobab (Adansonia digitata L.), the only accurate method for age determination is radiocarbon dating. As of today, this method was limited to dating samples collected from the remains of dead specimens.


Our research extends significantly the dating of such trees to large live specimens with inner cavities. The new approach is based on collecting samples from the cavities and their subsequent radiocarbon dating.


The giant two-stemmed Platland tree, also known as Sunland baobab, was investigated by using this new approach. AMS radiocarbon dates of the oldest sample segments originating from the two inner cavities indicate that the large stem I (364.5 m3) is 750 ± 75 years old, while the much smaller stem II (136.7 m3) has 1,060 ± 75 years. Results also show that stem I is still growing very fast, while the older stem II slowed down consistently its growth over the past 250 years. The complete mapping of Platland tree determined an overall wood volume of 501.2 m3.


Dating results demonstrate that the size–age relation cannot be used for estimating accurately the age of African baobabs.


Adansonia digitata Radiocarbon dating Age determination Growth rate Accelerator mass spectrometry