Analyses of species composition and tree increment cores from 145 stands in central Quebec were used to study the forest history and stand dynamics. Windspread fires, possibly synchronous, burned across central Quebec in at least 3 periods of record (1661-1663, 1779-1791 and 1869-1871). The average fire rotation (time interval between natural fires burning the equivalent of a large area) for spruce (Picea mariana)/feather moss forests was approximately 130 yr, while it was 70 yr in deciduous or jack pine forests. The traditional succession concept of continual recruitment leading to an all-aged forest was not evident in these forests. About 70% of the overstorey trees were established in the first 30 yr after fire disturbance, with little recruitment after this time. These initial trees dominated the canopy for up to 250 yr with mortality becoming prominent after 130 yr. The short average time between disturbances precludes the probable degeneration into old shrub-filled stands typical of old age.