Using 14C dating, the life span and growth rate of Borneo ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri, Lauraceae), which is a canopy tree species with extremely durable and decay-resistant wood distributed in tropical rain forests of South-East Asia, were studied. Timber segments collected from 15 logged stumps in Kubah National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia, were analysed by accelerator mass spectrometry and the obtained data were calibrated to determine the age of individuals. The 14C dating turned out to be an effective method for estimating ages of long-lived trees, such as E. zwageri, in the aseasonal tropics because the estimated error was small compared with estimated age. We found that E. zwageri can live more than 1000 y and that the growth rate of this species was very slow, with a mean radial growth rate of 0·058 cm y-1. The life span was much greater and the growth rate was much slower than those observed or estimated for trees of Dipterocarpaceae, the dominant family in this tropical forest. The long life span of this species may be caused by wood durability with a high specific gravity and abundant defensive compounds. Given equal carbon allocation, the high density and carbon-based defensive compounds may result in a reduced growth rate.