Will initials carved on the side of a tree always remain at the same height?

Dear Cecil:

Is it true that initials carved into the side of a tree will stay the same distance from the ground forever, regardless of how tall the tree grows? If so, why?

Cecil replies:

Dear Bob:

Yup. In yer basic tree, you got yer primary meristems, which are growth areas located at the tips of the roots (below) and shoots (above), and yer secondary meristem (also called the cambium), which is a thin sheath wrapped around the tree between the bark and the wood. The meristems are where all cell division, and thus all growth, occurs. The primaries make the tree taller, the cambium makes it fatter. So when your local sequoia adds a couple stories at attic level, the tree gets taller, but everything at ground level pretty much stays put.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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