Do Trees Die of Old Age? | Plus, the Oldest Living Tree

Nothing lives forever, including trees, but can trees die of old age? The answer is that it depends on your definition of the term.

Trees have the ability to live forever, but the older they get, the more likely they are to suffer from diseases, pests, and other things that will hasten their death. Trees can also lose bark over time, which affects the water and nutrients they receive.

While trees have the capability to live forever, they usually don’t.

6 Species of Trees That Live a Long Time

There are numerous tree species that tend to live a very long time, including the following:

1. Alaska Yellow Cedar

These trees are found in the northwestern part of the U.S. and usually grow to at least 2,000 feet. They also live up to 3,500 years.

2. Bristlecone

This tree is a type of conifer and is one of the longest-living things on Earth. Bristlecone trees can live up to a whopping 5,000 years.

3. Douglas Fir

Douglas firs can grow up to 220 feet tall and 14 feet wide; they can live for up to 1,200 years. They include redwood trees, which can live up to 2,200 years, and the sequoia tree, which can live up to 3,000 years.

4. Magnolia

While magnolia trees don’t live as long as the above three conifers, they can live up to 120 years. These trees are mostly found in the southern part of the U.S. and can grow up to 80 feet tall.

5. Dogwood

Dogwood trees live up to 125 years, and the longest-living cultivars include the Cherokee Princess, Pendula, Cloud 9, Plena, and Cherokee Brave.

6. White Oak

White oak trees are beautiful trees that always drop acorns in the fall. They are found mostly in the southern United States and can live up to 600 years.

7 Causes of Tree Death

Eventually, trees will die, mostly due to things that are out of their control. Most trees tend to die for the following reasons:

1. Their Environment

The location of the tree has a lot to do with how long it’s going to live. If it lives in an area that is prone to droughts, it will likely die from a lack of water

Soils with a lot of salt in them, air and ground pollution, extreme temperatures, and even poorly draining soils can all increase the odds that the tree is going to die before its time.

2. Catastrophic Events

Catastrophic events can kill trees as well, including forest fires, tornadoes, ice storms, and floods.

Any type of natural disaster can cause most types of trees to die sooner than they should. Even if the tree is in your own yard, it can be difficult to save a tree from events such as these.

3. Timber Harvest

Unfortunately, trees are often killed intentionally, especially through forestry. Trees can grow as fast as 1 year or take over 30 years to mature and be ready to harvest.

A great, green alternative is Bamboo which is technically a grass that grows fast. The stems can be harvested without killing the plant over and over again.

4. Disease and Pests

Regardless of where the tree is located or how it’s being taken care of, most trees can have problems with certain diseases and certain pests.

In North America, for instance, Dutch elm disease is responsible for wiping out entire forests of trees. Other diseases include Armillaria root rot and oak wilt. Common deadly pests include the gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, and pine beetles.

5. Injuries

Sometimes, things happen to trees that actually cause injuries. These include lightning strikes and over-pruning. The latter causes the tree stress, and, therefore, it is more difficult for the tree to take in the nourishment it needs to grow and thrive.

6. Overcrowding

Trees make for a beautiful landscape, but if too many of them are planted close together, they start to compete with one another for things such as air, water, and nutrients. This can cause some of them to die out a lot quicker than they should.

7. Age

The older a tree gets, the more difficult it is for the tree to support itself, and if it is left too long on its own, this will eventually cause its death. If you have an older tree in your yard that you tend to regularly, it will take much longer for it to die of “old age.”

The Oldest Known Living Tree

The oldest known living tree in the world a Bristlecone Pine in California that is 4,853 years old1.

Life Expectancy of Common Trees

Here are the life expectancies of many common trees:

  1. Aspen: 70–100 years
  2. Birch: 80–140 years
  3. Douglas fir: 1,000+ years
  4. Maple: 100–400 years
  5. Oak: 1,000+ years
  6. Ponderosa pine: 500+ years
  7. Redwood: 1,000+ years
  8. Yew: 1,000+ years

7 Ways to Know if a Tree is Dying

If you’re wondering if a tree in your yard is dying, here are some signs not to ignore:

  1. Thinning at the top center portion of the canopy
  2. Thinning of the entire canopy
  3. Leaves that bloom late
  4. Leaves that fall way too early
  5. Bark that has cracks in it
  6. Flowering that is excessive
  7. Any type of mold, mildew, fungi, etc., on any part of the tree

3 Ways to Save a Dying Tree

If your tree shows signs of dying, you should:

  1. Diagnose the problem, which might require a professional.
  2. Conduct some heavy pruning of the tree.
  3. Water the tree well.

In many cases, you’ll need a professional arborist to save your tree, so it’s always a good idea to call in the experts if you’re unsure what to do next.


Trees die due to problems associated with their age, but not necessarily because of their age itself. As trees get older, they are more susceptible to diseases, catastrophic events, and pests that can destroy them. These are the main reasons trees die as they get old.


  1. The world’s oldest tree is facing competition: 3 stories you may have missed,, accessed 14th October 2022.