Did you know that there are trees that have been verified to be over thousands of years old? And while you likely haven’t thought about how trees mature, live and prosper, you probably should. Our understanding of the complicated life cycle of our trees can help us give them long and healthy lives.
Trees are much more complicated than you might think. As they are continually evolving – their cells changing and their needs over their lifespan evolving – we should be prepared to care for our trees as such.
Young Trees and Their Swift Growth
Not all trees are created equal – did you know that a sapling and a seed from the same tree will likely have completely different DNA? Once a tree has established a simple root system, its next phase will is marked by a period of relatively rapid growth. During this time, a tree is also exceptionally vulnerable to disease, animals, and environmental factors. Your new tree will need all the help it can get.
As your new tree takes root, it will need the proper amounts of sunlight, soil, nutrients, and water. Keeping your tree protected during this vulnerable time will give it a much better chance to grow into maturity as a healthy tree. As a younger tree, it may not be able to recover as effectively or efficiently as a more mature tree,
Maturing Trees
Once established, trees count on their roots and branch systems to keep them healthy and their bark to keep them protected. Some recent studies have found that where we once thought a trees’ growth to slow, it is just as robust as when it was a younger tree. During this period a tree will begin to expand in all ways: upward with new branches and leaves, downward – with strong roots, and outward – with branches and roots moving out to continuously find food sources.
In this stage, your tree will be less vulnerable to disease and animals but will still need care if it is to have a full life cycle. Keep an eye on watering and soil. Your local forestry service may also have advice to guard against fungus or invasive insects.
Older Trees
Not every tree will enjoy a 1,000-year life span; for every tree that lasts this long, many others won’t. The typical lifespan of a tree is under 100 years. As the tree grows upward, downward and outward, it will often become just too big to sustain itself. Further, trees are regularly pruned or cut down to make way for roads, buildings, etc. as human growth continues to expand. Most commonly, an older tree becomes susceptible to an animal or fungus and suffers damage from which it may never correctly recover. In some cases, care and pruning of your aging tree may be able to bring it “back to life.” And in other cases, it may just be the end of the tree’s life span.

The more we know about our trees, the better equipped we are to nurture and protect them through all stages of their lives. Before planting, you may consider consulting an expert in your area to make sure you are planting a tree that will have a fruitful life span for your given climate.