Trees are one of the oldest living things on the planet, but how much do you actually know about the life cycle of a tree?
Perhaps you pass by several trees on your way to work every morning, but we’re willing to bet you don’t often ask yourself some key things about it:
- How old is it?
- How did it come to be?
- Who took care of it, if anyone?
Like all living things, trees have their life cycle, meaning that they can be born and die just like any other living thing on the face of this Earth. In this article, we’ll take a close look at the story of a tree, from the beginning until the end - and beyond.
The Birth of a Tree
Trees are incredible things, and it’s amazing to think so many of the Earth’s forests have taken form naturally, all by themselves. You wouldn’t think it, but the massive tree you can’t even wrap your arms around completely started out as something incredibly small: a seed.
Then, with the right combinations of soil, light, and warmth, the seed sprouts start to develop roots down below and the bark up top. At first, it can be just a leave that over decades can grow into a strong tree.
Of course, that’s the natural way a tree is born, meaning the way in which humans don’t have any say. It’s how many of the world’s forests were created, but today we can also take the matter into our own hands and speed things up a little.
You can also plant seeds, and then over time they can become trees, but that can take longer. Usually, people will purchase saplings from specialized nurseries and plant them onto an appropriate soil. This way, you essentially skip a few years, where you’re not even sure if the seed will fully develop into a sapling.
Watching It Grow
It’s a question a lot of children ask, leaving adults scratching their heads in confusion: how long do trees live? Some people may provide the "hundreds of years" answers, though this is not entirely correct. Coconut trees, for example, can live around 80-90 years, while other species can stick around for thousands of years.
How long a tree lives, depends on the type of tree we’re referring to. The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine Pinus Longaeva has the longest lifespan of plants, usually living around 5000 years. One living tree in White Mountain has been aged at 5,062 years, making it one of the oldest trees in history.
Over time, the trunk and branches grow thicker as new cells are formed and attach beneath the bark. These new cells will carry water and food through the entire tree, feeding it constantly and making sure it continues to grow.
Usually, the tree can manage to take what it needs on its own. But when we plant trees, we usually do it with a specific purpose in mind: making or backyard nicer, fixing the soil, preventing flooding, or giving a hand to lessen the damages of deforestation. In these cases, we monitor the growth of the tree closely and help it stay healthy by:
- Providing it with enough water;
- Removing weeds or pests that can damage it or prevent it from growing;
- Making sure the soil and area are sustainable enough for the tree to grow.
The Death of a Tree
It’s strange to put it into words, but trees can die from old age. Like any living creature, old age slows down the body, which means the tree cannot function as it used to in terms of feeding itself. This can eventually lead to the tree dying.
There are other issues that can lead to the death of a tree:
- Pests or the diseases they can spread;
- Natural disasters such as wildfires, or hurricanes;
- Adverse environments, or drastic changes in the environment;
- Human activity, which can affect the soil of the tree, or even warrant for the trees to be removed.
Nothing in the world lasts forever, and neither do trees. Still, it’s fair to say that if you plant just one tree in your life, and take proper care of it, it will stay with you for the rest of your life - and then some. Here are some average lifespans of trees:
- Ash, elm, hickory, sweetgum - 200 years
- Cherry, chestnut, holly, maple, oak, pine - 100 years
- Hemlock, white oak, pecan, tupelo - more than 200 years.
Average lifespans can also depend on the specific tree species. For example, the white oak tree has an average lifespan of 300 years, while the scarlet oak only lives for an average of 80. Additionally, note that these are average lifespans. Individual examples of trees can live a lot more than their average lifespan if it’s growing in the right conditions.
Plant a Tree Now!
There is something truly unique to know that something you did today can last hundreds, if not thousands of years. People often worry about leaving behind some mark or a legacy that would help keep their memory alive after they pass, but it can be difficult to know what will or will not stand the test of time.
Except when it comes to trees. With the right care, a tree can live for entire generations of people, keeping one’s memory alive and helping the planet at the same time. And we can help with that.
ReplantAmazon has taken on the mission of restoring the Amazon forest by planting 1 billion trees in the area by 2020. If you want to join our cause and leave something behind, you can donate to plant trees here and find out more about our activities.
As many as you like!$XUSD
You’re a hero! You’ve helped eliminate 10 tons CO2 from the environment!