Mature Tree Care: Respect Your Elders
Trees are probably the oldest living organisms on earth, with the eldest being the Bristle Cone Pines, or Pinus longeava, which grow in the White Mountains of California. Some of these trees have been confirmed to be well over 4000 years old! Closer to SavATree’s corporate headquarters, the oldest tree in Westchester, NY is the Peekskill Oak, a White Oak which is believed to be 450 years old, with a trunk of 21 feet in circumference.
In comparison, the famous Bedford Oak is but a sapling-approximately 350 years old and a mere 18 feet in circumference. Just as humans experience distinct phases in the course of a lifetime, so do trees. With these trees that live to such a ripe old age, though, each of the stages could last hundreds of years! The three stages of a tree are the growth phase, the reproduction phase and the decline phase.
During the growth phase, the tree’s length, thickness of the stem (trunk), the branches and the roots increase very rapidly. This is also the time when the tree’s regenerative abilities are the greatest. Usually, the vertical growth will begin to taper off after a number of years and the tree will achieve its ‘adult height’ which is also determined by the growth environment. Later, the horizontal growth will slow down as the tree gradually enters the next phase, reproduction.
Although the tree does not appear to be growing during this second phase, it is continually taking up nutrients which will be transformed into “building blocks.” This enables the tree to replace dying leaf tissue and feeder roots and to “heal” wounds. The roots remain active, searching for new sources of food. The canopy, or top of the tree, is equally active, as its leaves reach for the light, so essential to producing the tree’s building materials. It is during this period that the tree produces thousands of seeds which result in many offspring.
After many more years (sometimes hundreds), the tree enters its final decline phase in which the growth has reduced dramatically. This period of “physiological old age” is considered to be the most beautiful and has been captured in photographs and paintings by the world’s greatest masters, including Rembrandt.
During this phase, the tree can last decades or even hundreds of years as long as the roots and leaves continue to develop and other connecting parts, such as the live wood and bark layers, function. This explains why we sometimes see trees that are completely hollow but still perfectly healthy. Naturally, these trees are more susceptible to storm damage and breakage.
Eventually, the tree will die, when the weakened trunk or decayed roots can no longer support the canopy or when fungi and insects have disrupted the flow between root and crown.
Professional arborists can extend the lives of the old giants by providing structural support in the form of cabling, bracing or artificial “arms” and by fertilizing and protecting the trees from insects and disease. But the best way to insure a long life is to take proper care of the trees during the first and second phases, when the health and vitality are established.
Click or call today to arrange a complimentary consultation from our fully trained and certified arborists for tree care, tree disease and lawn care services from SavATree. Click here to contact the office nearest you.
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