Witness Tree Records for the Early Colonial Period (1623-1700) of Eastern Virginia

Marc D. Abrams, Sarah E. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The composition and dominance of 1256 witness (land survey) trees were compiled for the early Colonial era (pre-1700) in two locations in eastern Virginia, a region where studies of such information are lacking. The study locations are the Marine Corps Base Quantico and the Cheatham Annex Naval Supply Center, both along major rivers of Tidewater Virginia. At Quantico, a total of 754 witness trees comprising 22 species were recorded. Oak (Quercus) species made up 67% of these trees, followed by hickory (Carya; 15%), poplar (Liriodendron), gum (Nyssa), and pine (Pinus) each representing 4% of the forest composition. At Cheatham Annex a total of 502 witness trees from 24 species were recorded. Oaks made up 57% of the total composition followed by hickory (13%), pine (10%), poplar (5%), and gum (5%). There was a dearth of late successional, fire sensitive species at both locations, despite the presence of many mesic locations that should support such species. This suggests Native American activity (e.g., burning and land clearing) was an important factor affecting forests in eastern Virginia. This research provides a better understanding of the original forests of eastern Virginia and can serve as a baseline for making comparisons with present day forests to assess forest change since the Colonial era.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-122
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Midland Naturalist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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