Trees play a crucial role in the maintenance of the environment. The life cycle of a tree is under focus here as we seek to discuss the various stages a tree grows through.
Its starting and finishing points are at the seedling and its death respectively.
The Life Cycle Of A Tree
Trees can exist from a few decades to several centuries.
As such, it will only be interesting to discover or finding out more information about these organisms. These plants offer a wide range of benefits that include the improvement of air quality, provision of oxygen, and the conservation of water.
Other benefits derived include the preservation of soil and the support of wildlife. So, what’s the life cycle of trees like? Read on for details.
Stages Of A Tree Life Cycle
All trees undergo a definite process of development. The starting point is marked by the seeds or seedling which germinates into sprouts.
The next stage includes the sapling, which grows into the young tree. A young tree grows into a mature tree which is the next stage.
As with all living organisms, death is the final or last stage in the life cycle. As such, trees enter into the snag or dead tree stage. This is the simple illustration of the life cycle of a tree.
However, we’re not going to stop here. We’ll have to expand on each of these stages to better convey what happens.
1. Seed or Seedling Stage
Each day, tons of tree seedlings drop to the ground from existing trees.
These come in many forms and are a product of male and female parts of the trees that produce fruits. Certain seeds come in form of nuts that are encased in shells while others are found in fleshy fruits.
This is the primary stage within the life cycle of a tree. Here, tree seedlings are distributed or scattered in many ways. Such include gravity distribution, by animals, through the wind, by water, and force.
- Gravity Distribution
One of the most common ways by which trees scatter or distribute their seeds is by gravity. This involves a simple event where a tree drops its seeds below.
- Animal Distribution
We’ve earlier mentioned that trees support wildlife. This symbiotic relationship is seen in play when animals feed on their fruits. Birds are among these animals.
As they fly from one tree to the next, they drop off the seeds, thus distributing them around.
- Wind Distribution
The wind is another common way by which trees disperse their seeds.
Pollen grains are released into the air and transported by wind. Now, these pollens encounter female flowers along the way.
- Water Distribution
Overhanging waterways are great seed distribution mechanisms some trees use. These seedlings float on such water until they’re transported to suitable growing locations.
- Force Distribution
Some trees expel their seedlings by force.
Here, pods containing seedlings mature and dry up. When dry, they burst open. This forceful action sends the seeds flying in different directions.
Tree seeds only sprout to life when favorable conditions are met. While this is true, not every sprout blossoms into a sapling because conditions may only support sprouting but not development.
Conditions such as inadequate water, nutrients, and sunshine are critical at this point. Not having a sufficient supply of these conditions will result in the sprouts wilting or dying off.
On the other hand, a combination of these enables sprouts to blossom.
At this stage in its life cycle, a sapling attains juvenile tree status. Most tree nurseries sell at the sapling stage for onward transplanting by customers.
At this stage, the young tree has a slender trunk and is still under four inches or 10 centimeters.
At this stage of development, a sampling needs all the care it can get. This is because its root systems aren’t well developed and require artificial watering and fertilization.
A young tree is one that is more mature than a sapling but still isn’t fully mature. At this stage, the tree is mature enough to draw or source its own water or nutrients from the soil.
In other words, its root systems are significantly developed and able to sustain it.
5. Mature Tree
Just like the name implies, mature trees are fully grown. At this stage, all parts of the tree are fully developed including the root systems, trunks, and bark among others. This is the stage every tree reaches before it dies.
It’s clear to note that a tree may last several decades to centuries in this stage before it eventually moves on to the next. There are still trees alive that have seen multiple centuries that are still alive.
Still, there are some which only last a few decades before they die.
The decline becomes evident and is steady as trees gradually pass from the mature stage to a snag or dead stage.
6. Snag-Dead Tree
This is the endpoint of a tree’s life cycle.
Trees begin to decompose gradually and cease to be bear fruits and leaves. A full death of the tree will result when the soil is enriched by its nutrients and a full circle begins again.
It Doesn’t Always Run Full Circle
Not every tree goes through this entire cycle.
For instance, the logging industry depends on trees to attain maturity before cutting them for a variety of uses. Other factors that could prevent a tree from attaining its full circle may include the non-availability of soil nutrients and inadequate sunlight.
Others include topographic location, rainfall, construction, weather patterns, insect or pest activity as well as storms.
All of these contribute to interrupting the life cycle of a tree. In general, stresses caused by injuries, pest activity, or competition (from other trees) will limit a tree’s chances to complete its life cycle.
Despite these interruptions, just as many trees make it through or complete their life cycles.
The life cycle of a tree is a very interesting process as it happens over many decades. We’ve also seen that not all trees complete this process. Some of these are used or cut down by humans or affected by a variety of environmental conditions.