Common Tree Questions
There are some questions that come up on a regular basis when I walk a property with our clients. Questions like, “What is the age of this tree?” or “How long will this tree live?” can be tricky to answer. First, let me ask you a question. Based on this picture of a Water Oak located in Greenville, South Carolina, how old do you think it is? Don’t cheat, but I will give you a close answer at the end of this article.
How Can you Determine Tree Age?
There are many factors that go into tree growth: species, environmental conditions, and length of a growing season are a few. A tree that is growing in an area that gets sufficient moisture and has the conditions it needs in the soil with low canopy competition will significantly outperform the same species in a competitive environment. A Poplar tree will grow much quicker than a Red or White Oak. The trees in the Southeast will be much younger than the same sized tree growing in the northeast. Folks who move to this region from up north will comment on how quickly things grow down here. So, if you have a tree that is 3 feet in diameter, don’t assume it is 100+ years old. It could be, but chances are, it’s not. Websites that provide calculations are often unreliable in our area. You could cut the tree down and count the rings, but that’s only if you can see them all without going cross-eyed or counting false rings. You’re better off looking at the age and history of the neighborhood or area you live in to get you close.
So back to our tree in Greenville. My client planted this tree about 60 years ago. I am not sure how old it was when he planted it, but it was small enough for him to bring home in his car. Even as an arborist, I was pleasantly surprised; this tree has been pruned, mulched, watered, and fertilized over the years. So how long will your tree live? Depends on the care you give it.