Can Trees Die of Old Age?

Can trees die of old age? The short answer is that they move through their life cycle but don’t experience aging as we do. In this post, Ace Tree Service, Folsom’s reliable tree removal service, explains more about this interesting phenomenon. 

can trees die of old age

Tree Senescence

As humans, our bodies decline with age. We become frailer and frailer until we can’t go on anymore. No one’s found any proof that trees suffer the same fate. And, considering that there are at least two trees globally that are over 4,500 years old, they seem immortal. 

The Life Cycle of a Tree

If you know how to care for trees, you might wonder, if a tree can live forever, why does it bother to procreate? The answer is that the tree goes through several developmental stages. When the tree reaches maturity, its physiological processes naturally begin to slow down, and this may make it more vulnerable to disease, insects, and adverse weather conditions. 

The tree will change the following as it grows older: 

  • It stops growing taller 
  • The leaf-bearing stems thicken 
  • The leaves become smaller and thicker
  • Photosynthesis and respiration slow down due to a lower stomatal conductance  
  • Reproduction slows
  • The xylem doesn’t expand as quickly 
  • Translocation, or the process by which the tree moves nutrients, slows down 

So, the answer to “Can trees die of old age?” is they fade away. They’re less resilient and so are no longer able to cope with damage. Therefore, trees are more likely to succumb to disease or other “unnatural” causes. 

Tree Death Causes

Trees must be able to produce food, respire, and move the nutrients as necessary. If they can no longer perform one of these vital functions, the tree will die. Here are some examples of this in action. 

Too Much Shade

If you have a dense patch of trees, it’s common for the younger saplings to die before maturity because they can’t compete for the sunlight. Conversely to what you might think, the larger the tree, the greater the risk because big plants need more energy from the sun to support themselves.  


Anything that stresses a tree may eventually kill it, and prolonged drought is one of the worst stressors. The tree initially relies on its stores of moisture and carbohydrates. In an effort to conserve water, its leaves start to curl, are stunted, or fall off. This is detrimental to photosynthesis. 

Trees with long deep roots are more likely to weather these conditions, but all trees are at risk. 

Bad Weather and Injuries

Heavy winds, snow, fire, and lightning all put great pressure on trees. Galeforce winds can rip off branches, tear away leaves, and even uproot the plant. Floods can be as bad for trees as too little water as the roots literally drown and begin to rot. 

A lightning strike bakes the tree from the inside out and can easily cause instant death. Sunscald is another potential killer. 

Nutrient Deficiencies

All plants need the right mix of minerals to grow at their best. Depleted soil or too many competing plants may make it difficult for the tree to get the required nutrition. 

Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases kill millions of trees every year. Some are difficult to diagnose before it’s too late, while others have devastating consequences over a short period. 

Contact Us for the Right Advice for Your Tree

Now that you can answer, “Can trees die of old age?” do you want your trees to live to a ripe old age? Schedule annual checkups from one of the tree anatomy experts at Ace Tree Service, or call us whenever your tree looks poorly. Reach out at (916) 934-3204 for service in Folsom and the surrounding areas.