What Does Short-Lived Mean?

aezarien(7b)May 14, 2008

Of course I have a general idea of what this means but comparatively speaking I'm having trouble with the concept.

I believe I have identified one of my backyard inhabitants as a Silver Maple which is said to have rapid growth but to be short-lived at up to 130-150 years. I also have baby Mimosas in the house (for house plants only I assure you) and they are said to be short lived at 15-30 years.

I guess as a human, whose life-span is short compared to other species, 130-150 years would seem like quite a long time but moreover the difference between 15 and 130 years is what has me a little confused.

How old does a tree have to be able to get before it is no longer considered short lived?

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

A silver maple at 130 years would be LONG lived, indeed! Comparatively speaking, silver maples tend to be shorter lived than other maples.

If you take all of the environmental factors out of it, the life span of trees is dependant upon the species. You really can't compare a (say) Bradford Pear to a Sugar Maple. A 30 year old Bradford pear would be considered very elderly, while a maple of the same age would still be considered a teenager.

Does that make sense?

I think that it's helpful to know a little bit about the 'expected life span' of your individual trees as it can determine their needs and possible problems. Woody plants are much, much more prone to insect and disease issues as they get into their 'golden years'.

I'm sure that others will have some interesting comments on the life span of trees.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 3:10PM
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Thank you, and yes that makes plenty of sense.

I read an article about using short-lived trees in the landscape saying that they have been preferred in the past because a lot of them will grow real fast. The guy/gal when on a little further to pretty much say it was thought of as taboo and ultimately a very egotistical thing to only be concerned that the plant would outlive the resident. To a degree I can see it but the Silver Maple was specifically addressed and I was thinking... 130 years? Given the right circumstances this tree can outlive my grandchildren.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 7:56PM
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gardenscout(z6 NE RI)

With a Silver Maple, though, the real question is "Can anything else survive on your property while it is there?" (That includes your septic/sewage system.)

I know that was not your question, but those trees are thugs.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 9:16PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

The four silver maples that were dying and so hazardous they needed to be removed from yards on my street were in the 40 to 60 years year age range based on ring count. Two others are near collapse.

I think of short lived as being that or less on average. A tree I may outlive. Medium is a tree that my grand children should grow old with. Long Lived is any tree that has relatives who are as old as our young country. (The US, not England Resin!)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 9:28PM
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Gardenscout - The previous owners planted this one on the far right of the property which is about a good fifty feet from the septic/drain field. That would have been ok but they later had a garage added and the tree is now about six feet from the garage. Daffodils and some other flower have come up the two years in a row we have been here and spread nicely. It's a beautiful tree but it does worry me being that close to the house. It has nothing on the Pin Oak looming over the garage from the neighbor's house though. That thing will take out the whole garage if it drops.

As far as what I am considering: We have a lot that is a little over a half an acre. I pulled a few seedlings up from around my flower bed and potted them up. I considered planting them on the far back end of the yard to fix a poor view. If they only live 40-60 years however, I'm thinking that wouldn't be a good idea. I am not sure I want to be 75-95 years old worrying about removing a bunch of old trees.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 9:53PM
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"Long Lived is any tree that has relatives who are as old as our young country. (The US, not England Resin!)"

And really long-lived is trees which can be older than England . . . trees that you can plant and have a hope they'll still be alive a thousand years or more from now.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 3:14AM
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Resin - I find something novel in the idea of planting something that will probably outlast humans.

This is probably going to be the last home we live in. While I know we should have always been concerned about what we put in the ground I guess permanence really brings that reality to life. I have always had above average success when growing things from seed and making things grow well in the ground based on a few common sense rules. The past year and a half, however, I have learned that I have so much more to learn than I ever anticipated. If they offered a class at the community college to teach you the basics of taking care of your yard alone I would certainly take it!

Anyway.. thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 1:23PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

I have seen maybe 15 years old silver maples falling apart already. I think it is very short lived in my area. About as bad as bradford pears...

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 1:36PM
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Bradford Pears.. they sure are pretty but they don't seem very sturdy. My neighbors have them and for all the trouble they go through, one cold day in April or one good storm rolls through and they are raggedy looking for the rest of the season.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 2:19PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

but it all begs the question .. how long is it useful ...

a tree that lives say 60 years... may begin disintegrating in 30 years ...

nothing like a 100 foot tree dropping huge limbs ...

we have all seen that 1500 year old pine tree on top of the mountain ... i cant think of the name ... technically its alive.. and technically its a tree ... but i wouldnt say it is growing to its ultimate ...

you might think.. i will plant that cottonwood or poplar or willow next to the foundation.. because it will shade my house.. and dam the heirs... they can die in their sleep from falling limbs ... but in reality ... you are going to start having massive problems much sooner than the time of its eventual demise ...

i cant tell if i am getting my point across... ken .. if i had one.. lol ...

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 5:12PM
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treeguy123(AL 7b)

This is generally what the U.S. Forest service calls certain trees by their longevity, as well as most other sources.
>Short-lived trees are ones that normally live Less than 100 years.
>Medium-lived are ones that normally live up to about 100 to 250 years.
>Long-lived trees are ones that normally live longer than than about 250 years.
>Very long-lived trees can normally live more than 1000 years.
>Extremely long-lived are trees that can live longer than 3000 or 4000 years.

Silver Maple is a short to sometimes medium lived tree.
Silver Maple is my favorite maple because of its interest and beauty, such as the shaggy gray bark, very nice leaves that flicker silver and green when the wind blows, cool huge seeds, grows fast on average 2+ feet a year. Even though they can have long term problems such as branches that can break in strong storms (mainly from narrow branch crotches), pest, and diseases. They are not good right near a home, but if planted away from septic lines, houses, car dives etc. they are great (especially in a lower deeper soil area where surface roots will no be as big of a problem).
Silver maples can and do live over 130 years, especially in the wild in deep, moist, and rich protected forests. But many because of poor planting practices, being neglected, and root destruction from cars/construction etc many only live 30 to 50 years when they become more prone to diseases and pest which that can lead to rot and much more breakage. If a silver maple is sited good, cared for, and is not disturbed by anything then they could easily live 80 to 100 years or more.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 5:29PM
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cacau(z5/6 CO)

I think TreeGuy's estimate on silver maple longevity (in an urban area) is reasonably accurate. I live in an area that was mainly developed in the late 1920s and the vast majority of the original street trees were silver maples, which means they are now 75 to 80 years old. I'd estimate that not quite half have now been removed. Therefore some are likely to make it well past the 100 year mark, but 150 would probably be the exception.

However, I think Ken and others are right about the "useful life" of these trees, which I'd peg closer to 50 years. Many of the roughly half that have survived here are esthetic disasters, require constant maintenance, and are time bombs, too, with (often unseen) weak and rotten limbs waiting to fall on cars. I would never plant one, in part because there are so many of them here already, but mainly because there are so many better trees.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 11:47PM
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Lots of great information on the topic so far.. Thank you!

This one is not well placed at about seven feet from the back wall of my garage to the trunk of the tree. I measured the distance from the septic/drain fill and it is more like about.. twenty-five feet at least from both. As far a maintenance goes, I have been here a year and a half. I haven't touched the tree and I'm not sure of how well, if at all the trees on this lot were maintained. By the condition of the others on this property, I would say not much but that is mere conjecture.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 12:29AM
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