How Long Do Trees Live (And Why)?

Exact Answer: The Average Lifespan Of A Tree Depends On The Species And Its Surroundings

Trees are the largest living things on Earth, and they can live for hundreds or even thousands of years. However, not all trees stay alive for the same amount of time, and some types last much longer than others. 

The average lifespan of trees is between 50 to 300 years, depending on the species. Some notable exceptions include the bristlecone pine that can live more than 5,000 years and the black cottonwood that has been known to reach 200 years.

How Long Do Trees Live?

TreesDuration 
Ash125 Years
Beech, American300 Years

Trees are living organisms genetically different from most organisms on earth, and they are capable of growth, but not of reproduction. The time that any tree is alive varies depending on its species and how it is taken care of. 

There is documentation supporting that this can be anywhere between 60-2000 years, with the average being about 50 to 300 years. Experts have noted that often, one would need to plant a new tree for each dead one to maintain an ecosystem’s stability or forest system properly because trees help regulate weather patterns and soil quality.

Trees that are planted in the ground live for around 30 to 50 years. Trees planted in containers or pots live less than those planted in the ground because they require more frequent watering and attention, which increases their vulnerability to diseases, insects, and cold weather where temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Different trees have different lifespans, such as ash trees have an average lifespan of 125 years, whereas Boxelder is 75 years. Hackberry trees have an average of 150 years but can be extended up to 200 with proper care and weather conditions.

Pine trees have 200 years of life, and Tulip-Poplar has 250 years but may extend to 450 years with proper care. Spruce can live up to 150 to 350 years, while Sassafras has 100 to 500 years with the right conditions.

Why Would Trees Live For So Long?

Trees have a high metabolic rate, which means they need a lot of energy from light and nutrients for their growth. They can keep growing as long as they are supplied with enough water and nutrients. 

Leaf tissues die off during autumn, but unlike other plants where this dying tissue is confined to the leaves, trees leave their dead wood lying on the ground year-round. Dead sapwood is soft like paper or clay. It will still decay eventually like any other organic matter; it’s resistant to decay because its bark contains tannins that act as natural preservatives. 

This content gives decaying branches somewhere to grow new roots for future trees (called coppice) while retaining their ability to provide habitat for wildlife to maintain the ecosystem.

Life expectancy varies depending on the type of tree. Some trees, like oak trees, can live up to one thousand years, and other types of trees, such as Maples and Ash, have a much shorter lifespan. 

On average, most deciduous forested temperate zone species live about one hundred to two hundred years, with some living as long as three hundred or even four hundred years. Still, some exceptions can only live about fifteen-25 years and grow 1-3 feet per year.

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To calculate the lifespan of the tree, one needs to cut down the respective tree horizontally. The circular lines which equate to rings denote the lifespan of each tree. The age of a tree can depend on several factors, from species to climate to size. However, using rings as an estimate is generally believed to work well.

Conclusion

Tree age measure is a difficult question as the tree’s growth rate evolves with climate, elevation, and other factors. Generally, calculating the age of a tree using the rings method is accepted.

To get the most accurate results, one will need to know how much rain/humidity their area gets and what season is best for the type of tree one wants to determine the age of. Some calculators will do the job.

A tree’s lifespan starts from germination to death, with many stages in between. Therefore the answer to how long trees live depends on the environment and the amount of nourishment it receives.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568163702000259
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00442-010-1807-x 
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