Reliable information on tree growth is a prerequisite for sustainable forest management (SFM). However, in tropical forests its implementation is often hampered by insufficient knowledge of the growth dynamics of trees. Although tree ring analysis of tropical trees has a long history, its application for SFM has only recently been considered. In the current study, we illustrate both the potentials and limitations of a retrospective growth assessment by tree ring analysis under the prevailing tropical conditions in a Surinamese rain forest. For this purpose, 38 commercial tree species were screened and grouped into three categories according to the visibility of their tree ring boundaries: (I) tree rings absent or indistinct, (II) distinct but partially vague tree rings which enable approximate age estimation, (III) very distinct tree rings. In 22 out of 38 commercial tree species distinct to very distinct tree ring boundaries could be identified. The anatomy of tree ring boundaries was described following Worbes and Fichtler (2010). Four species with distinct growth rings, Cedrela odorata, Hymenaea courbaril, Pithecellobium corymbosum and Goupia glabra, were studied in greater detail. Time-series analysis was used to characterise their radial growth. From the tree ring width, the annual diameter increment and cumulative diameter growth were calculated to find long-term growth patterns. Pithecellobium corymbosum and partially Hymenaea courbaril followed a typical S-shaped growth curve. By contrast, Goupia glabra and Cedrela odorata did not exhibit an age-related decrease of growth, but showed a constant linear growth over their entire life span. If based on more sample trees, such data can provide target-oriented information for improving SFM in tropical forests.