A simple, quick, and inexpensive technique to improve visualization of aspen (Populus tremuloides) tree rings under the microscope, the ‘shadow technique’, is described. The technique assumes appropriate preparation of increment cores or cross-sections and works well on the lighter portions of the sample with fungus- and bacteria-free wood. The shadow technique was used successfully to elucidate tree-ring boundaries in small diameter (<5 cm DBH) aspen from northern Utah that commonly had >100 annual rings. Crossdating verified whether the elusive rings were missing or false rings. Aspen tree-ring measurement will be greatly enhanced with the shadow technique and preliminary investigation suggests it could be used on other species such as curlleaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius).
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