Diagram of secondary growth in a tree showing idealised vertical and horizontal sections.
A new layer of wood is added in each growing season, thickening the stem, existing branches and roots, to form a growth ring.
Hence, for the entire period of a tree's life, a year-by-year record or ring pattern builds up that reflects the age of the tree and the climatic conditions in which the tree grew.
Adequate moisture and a long growing season result in a wide ring, while a drought year may result in a very narrow one.
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The rings are more visible in trees which have grown in temperate zones, where the seasons differ more markedly.