Thread: tree life expectancy

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2008
    cottageville, south carolina

    tree life expectancy

    i was wondering, when a tree is cut down and new growth sprouts up from the stump, are the new sprouts considered a new tree that could live for hundreds of years? or are the new sprouts' life expectancy subtracted from the previous trees years in existence? also if these are oaks, will they take another 20 years or so to begin making acorns again?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2007

    RE: tree life expectancy

    This is a very good question, I have been wondering this too about the shoots that come from the dead American chestnuts that died of blight many decades ago. Since they are growing from the same root system, will they still have the same life expectancy of the original tree, and will die regardless of size when the old roots give out, or does it start new because the shoots are like a new 'body' without the diseases and weariness of the old one?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Dalton, GA

    RE: tree life expectancy

    I have no clue, but I'm tired of being on my feet and need something to do sitting down. So.......

    What's the new trees gonna do with that big rotting stump they're growing out of? Seems to me its a last ditch effort by the tree to reproduce. Wouldn't seem like it would live much longer (relative to original life expectancy). And it should be to the tree's best interest to produce seed as soon as it can.

    I've read online somewhere that the watershoots come out as a sign of stress, and the reason the tree acts that way is to funnel all its energy into reproduction before it dies.... er, in case it dies.

    Well, even if I'm wrong, some expert will get angry with my answer and will post the real answer, so hopefully we'll get to the bottom of it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Central Indiana

    RE: tree life expectancy

    There are a lot of variables to consider in answering this question. But, in general, a coppice (regrown from the stump) will be limited to the life expectancy of the original tree. So, if you cut down a hardwood tree that had 100 more years to live and a coppice is allowed to mature, it might last a century.

    Interestingly, in many species, the longest lived trees are those that were repeatedly cut down in youth. So, a coppice might very well live LONGER than the average life expectancy for the species.

    We know from the experience with elms and chestnuts that coppices (also called "stools" but I don't like to use that term, for obvious reasons! ) will continue to appear for decades after the loss of the original. It IS a last-ditch effort by the tree to survive.

    So, if you have a very long-lived species and a coppice grows from the stump and you don't mind having the tree in that location, let it go! With the established root system in place, it should do fairly well.

    If killed by a disease, however, the new tree will probably not survive. It will be attacked by the disease when it reaches a certain point--the chestnuts, for example, get the blight again when they reach fruiting age.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Dalton, GA

    RE: tree life expectancy

    So, if a Bur Oak takes 10 yrs to produce acorns, will the coppice also take 10 yrs to produce?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Central Indiana

    RE: tree life expectancy

    A coppiced tree CAN live a LOT longer than a normal tree. In fact, in some parts of the world, coppicing is a form of forest management that is used to encourage individual trees to live longer. As I said before, the life expectancy depends on a number of variables that make it hard to generalize. For some species, you can actually add many decades to the life of a tree by pruning it back to ground level. Most hardwoods can be coppiced. Conifers cannot--they will die.

    Coppicing works very well when used as a pruning technique with young trees. Some use it as a pruning method to make sure that the tree grows a single, straight trunk. It also is useful for stopping the spread of disease. But some diseases cannot be stopped by this method--i.e. chestnut blight. It is also a technique for woodland management if you want more light in the forest for other young trees or for fruit or berries. It opens up the canopy without losing the coppiced overstory tree forever. Finally, it is often used as method for harvesting wood from a forest and is done a regular rotation (say every 10 or 15 or 20 years).

    The new shoots replace the cut trunk and the trees begins to spread over time. The resulting stump with several shoots is called a "stool."

    Coppicing, like pollarding (which is similar, except that the trees are cut much higher up the trunk--but must be done when young because it can kill mature trees), is very popular in Europe. There, it is common to use coppice avenues for orchards. They plant their fruit trees in between rows of chestnut coppices. By the time the chestnuts are big enough to be harvested for timber, the fruit trees themselves can be coppiced or have lived out their live spans.

    As for fruiting times, you the coppice might reach fruiting age a little sooner than what you'd expect from a seedling. It won't be as fast as grafting--which can cut the time in half (a grafted hickory can produce nuts in 8 to 12 years instead of the usual 20 to 25 years). Instead, you might cut it from something like 20 to 18 or maybe 15 years. But it will vary. You should expect the usual time frame and hope for a little better.

    So, in regard to original question: It is very likely that you can actually have the tree live a whole lot longer than anyone would expect that kind of tree to survive. So, cutting those little volunteer trees in your yard when you mow might actually allow them grow up someday to be the oldest tree in the neighborhood! But the stool you have on that old stump, while it will probably reach maturity and may very well outlive all of us, might not make it quite as long. One of the important variables is how old the tree was when it was cut down to ground level. If it was a relatively young tree-say 25 or 30 years old, the coppice might very well live longer than the expected years for the species. If it was older, the coppice might not live as long.

    To make this long story short: I'd keep a coppice and would read about coppicing the particular species. You'll probably find a website from the United Kingdom that will tell you something about it.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Central Indiana

    RE: tree life expectancy

    Oh, one more thing: even though the stools of the chestnuts almost always get the blight and die as they reach fruiting age, the coppices have been an important part of the work being done to produce a blight-resistant tree. Hybrids are part of the story, but so too are the coppices. In fact, it looks like we are very close to having true (or near-true) American Chestnut trees that are blight-resistant.

    Perhaps a coppice equals hope.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Dalton, GA

    Re: RE: tree life expectancy

    Thanks IhateSuburbanSprawl!

    Quote Originally Posted by JustRandy
    Well, even if I'm wrong, some expert will get angry with my answer and will post the real answer, so hopefully we'll get to the bottom of it.
    See? Works everytime!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Northern Minnesota-zone 3

    RE: tree life expectancy

    Thanks for that, Sprawl!

    At our cabin we have numerous trees that died due to high water one year.. the speckled alder and green/black ash survived, but the red oaks died. We cut them down and new shoots have sprouted out of the original trunk.. last year, the tallest one was about 6 feet tall, so I cut the others back again so that this one can grow.

    I also saw the pollarding practice in Salzburg with trees along the river.. they'd cut the tree back in several places and then tons of little new sprouts would shoot out around it.. it looked like the "witch" tree in Harry Potter during the winter, but looked very nice during the summer.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    RE: tree life expectancy

    I was under the impression Japanese cedar could be coppiced. Is this incorrect?

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