Growth Stages of Trees

 In Tree and Shrub Care

Trees grow in stages, similar to the way that we grow from adolescence to a mature adult. It is easier to evaluate the age of a tree using these stages rather than the literal chronological age.

The growth stages of a tree depends greatly on what type of tree it is – for example, a twenty year old oak tree is a juvenile while a maple tree at the same age is mature. Other factors that determine the growth rate and stage of a tree are environmental issues such as the climate zone that you are in or any insect damage to the tree. Treating a tree with fertilizer or an injection root feeding, or transplanting the tree, can also affect the growth stages.

The most common stages of tree growth are as follows:

The Formative Stage: Adolescence

  • Roots and stems develop quickly
  • Almost 100% live tissue – very minimal amount of non-usable tissue and dead wood
  • High levels of energy – lots of growth and overall good health


The Mature Stage: Full Size

  • Growth slows – begins growing wider rather than vertically
  • Natural loss of limbs due to dysfunctional tissue
  • Some decaying wood may be present due to fungal growth


The Veteran Stage: Old Age

  • Very slow to no growth – low energy due to leaf and health decline
  • Loss of limbs increases
  • Possible damage and decay to roots and limbs


Trees that are healthy, or that have been treated with fertilizer and injection root feedings, will have a stronger defense system and will stay in the veteran stage for a very long time. The best way to ensure the longest lifespan possible for any tree is to keep it well watered, fertilized, and pest free.

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