Questions and Answers

Can Trees Die of Old Age

Bristlecone Pine Trees
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicensePhoto by  USDAgov

As humans, we are used to seeing generations come and go. The human body for the most part has what I like to call a “fixed life span”, we go along with the natural cycle of life for X amount of years and then it’s time for our bodies to move on. For each person that fixed number of years may differ, but I believe this sort of thing is written from day one.
But what about trees? Can trees die of old age in the same manner that humans do? First let’s take a look at the inner workings of a tree as each and every tree is different.

How Long Can Trees Live

Science suggests that the longest expected life span for a human is a maximum of 120 years. They say it’s physically impossible to live any longer, although as the years move forward in this world that number seems to be slowly decreasing. This is probably due to the ever changing conditions in which we live. Such as the air we breathe and the water and food our bodies intake.


Of course all trees will eventually reach the end of their days, but unlike humans, there really isn’t a fixed or average number of years a tree will live. There are so many different types of tree and each kind of tree is totally different from one another. I suppose it is possible for different kinds of trees to have an expected life span, but who knows what that number may be.


For example, the bristlecone pine may live upwards of 350 or more years before it finally dies out. But on the other hand, some of these trees found in the California, USA region have been discovered in good health at over 4,000 years old! That’s certainly a long life for any living organism.


So how does a tree live 4,000 years before finally withering away in decay? The major factor we have to consider is that trees “systems” are much less complicated that humans. Meaning they don’t have near as many working parts as we do, and that means fewer break downs. Plus as humans, our body functions and is controlled by our brain, and since the brain is a living organ, it may malfunction or even shut down. And we all know what happens when our brain gives out, that’s right, we die.


How do Trees and Humans Differ

But trees on the other hand do not have brains, or functioning organs in the same sense that humans have. There are actually many parts of a tree that can die out or cease to function while the remainder of the tree continues to exist. Here’s an interesting fact for you, a big majority of a tree is in fact already dead. Such as the wood contained in the center of a trees trunk. Only the outer layers of a tree are actually alive at any one time. There is a thin layer just beneath a trees bark called the cambium. The cambium is the most newly formed part of a tree because trees grow from the inside out, as they develop more outside living layers, the inner layers die out.


The other living parts of a tree are found in the leaves as well as the tips of their roots and branches. Of course all of these parts are continuously being generated as well. Just like when fall season comes, the tree will shed it’s leaves and bud out new ones in the spring time.


So basically a tree is a constantly regenerating specimen that will normally outgrow all the other living creatures around it. Just imagine all the history a tree could tell you after hundreds and hundreds of life years under it’s belt.


But we must keep in mind that many trees will also meet their doom due to many natural and unnatural circumstances. Things like collision accidents, diseases, insects and even animals invading their space can cause an early demise.

So after all this is said and done, can a tree die of old age? Certainly, but we really don’t know when that will be. It is possible for them to cease to generate new living material, but that time may come many generations after you or I are long gone.
Please be sure to check out my other article Trees that Speak for some interesting information about how trees communicate with one another.
Do you have an appreciate for trees? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

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16 thoughts on “Can Trees Die of Old Age
  1. Hi Robert,

    Fascinating article. I’ve always wondered how some of these ‘Red Wood’ trees managed to live for thousands of years. It’s such an awesome and complex eco-system of nature.

    1. Indeed it is Hugh, 4,000 years old is just out of this world. I’ve seen some of these trees so big that they had to cut through them to make a tunnel for cars to drive through!

  2. this is what i want to know cause all the time in parks when i see old tress i was thinking about that tress die in old age but know it’s clear thnx robert love your blog..

    1. Hey you’re welcome Prince Ramgarhia, I find the Earth’s living things to be fascinating. There’s so much to learn.

  3. Hi Robert !
    Human beings and Trees are made up of cells , and every cell has a life span ..this is what i remember studying school .I think , scientists are the people whom we can trust as they have more knowledge then us .Nice Article ..and thanks fr sharing !

    1. That’s a very good point Pramod about all cells having a life span. This is quite true it really is a good thing that humans don’t live this long, otherwise the Earth would be much more crowded than it is already. I believe nature has a way of enforcing population control.

  4. Its a fact that the life we live today can’t be compare to that of older generations, the stress that comes with modernization and ambitious life style most time deprive us the vitality needed for a healthy long life. I think lifespan of 120 is now a rare blessing

    1. Thanks for a great comment Dessy. I definitely agree with you that living to 120 years is an amazing blessing these days. It’s quite rare to see that happen and sadly I believe that number is decreasing as time goes on.

  5. Two years ago I spent one week in the Amazons and saw some AMAZING trees! My top two favorites are the Brazlian tree that produce a delicious nut and the second is one that actually walks to move itself into more sunlight! It is so important to respect and preserve trees!

    1. Thank you Deborah for the insight. Trees are magnificent wonders and they provide us with many necessities such as food, shade, oxygen just to name a few. It’s sad to see that so much deforestation is taking place, trees should be allowed to stand where they belong and not be tampered with. But I suppose in order for us to inhabit the Earth, some things have to be changed.

    1. Thank you Joni, I appreciate the feedback and I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog.

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