Every living thing eventually dies, and trees are not an exception. While human beings can live close to a century, some trees can live up to at least 5,000 years. So, do trees die of old age?
Trees really don’t die of old age, but their likelihood of dying from factors like disease increases as they become older. As experienced tree care professionals providing expert arborist services in Marietta, GA, we take a deeper look into how age affects tree mortality. Keep reading for more information.
Why Trees Don’t Actually Die of Old Age
Plant cells don’t age. That means no matter how old a tree is, its live cells, including the roots, leaves, and cambium, are quite young. You’ve most probably seen that when old leaves fall off your tree, new leaves grow after a while.
Feeder roots and other tissues also die and regrow cyclically, just like the leaves. If you cut off a branch from your tree, the rest of the tree will experience the loss of its hormone signal. This causes the other branches to grow more vigorously to compensate for the loss and restore the ratio between shoots and roots.
If the vascular cambium on one side of the tree’s trunk suffers any damage, the cambium on the other side usually thickens to cover for the loss. The cells around the edges of the affected part will grow inward in a bid to seal it off.
So, if the tree tissues don’t age, and the tree resets itself based on ongoing hormonal signals, why aren’t trees immortal?
The accumulation of defects over time can hamper repair processes, reducing tree lifespan. Aging trees eventually reach a point where they can’t keep things working efficiently.
Why Trees Don’t Live Forever
Do trees die of old age? While a simple answer is no, you should realize that the longer a tree lives, the more vulnerable it becomes to various causes of tree death. These may include disease, insect infestation, or a storm.
A storm might break a branch off your tree, making it more susceptible to infection. Likewise, your tree might survive for many years, outgrowing other nearby trees. Unfortunately, this will increase its odds of being struck by lightning!
So, while a tree may not die of old age, it won’t live forever; simple statistics dictate that it might succumb to other causes.
Factors Influencing the Longevity of Trees
Here are a few other factors that increase the likelihood of trees dying as they age:
- Competition: Under natural conditions, competition limits the lifespan of older trees. Larger trees have the advantage of absorbing water and reaching sunlight at the expense of their smaller counterparts. Sadly, they don’t have the advantage of shrinking their tissues to more manageable sizes in the event of a drought without exposing their heartwood to harsh environmental elements.
- Heartwood Decay: While healthy middle-aged trees experience decay in various parts, their ability to add fresh wood yearly helps them remain strong. Conversely, older, huge trees have a much harder time defending the expansive surface area, particularly when the decay pockets start to merge within the tree.
Contact Your Local Tree Experts for Assistance
If you need more information about the question, “Do trees die of old age?” or want to learn more about the tree aging process, SoutheastTree is the go-to local arborist in Marietta, GA. We provide a wide range of tree care services, including:
- Emergency Tree Service
- Tree Trimming & Pruning
- Tree Removal