How to Grow and Care For Your 250+ Year Old Tree, Part 1 of 5
by Rachel and Odis Sisk
Just because a tree is large or declining, doesn't mean it needs to come down. Tree removal is a last resort.
Even a tree with health problems can potentially be provided with a better ecosystem to help prolong its lifespan. A tree's internal health is not only determined by the symptoms it gives externally, but an internal portion can also be scientifically charted by a resistograph.
Large, mature trees come to mind when prompted for images of The South. However, old growth forests and trees are quickly becoming lost to logging, urban stresses, and preferential treatment to small replacement trees. In cities and urban areas, city planners frequently elect to plant trees with a set lifespan. They plant them with limited resources, so the tree only lasts about 10 years. (You can see the degradation mapped in the middle image below.)
Trees are able to grow in forests for years untouched by people. Trees naturally take care of themselves.
Methuselah, the oldest known non-clonal tree, is about 4,844 years old.
(This is a photo of its forest. The exact location is undisclosed.)
General Sherman, a giant sequoia, is the largest known living single stem tree.
Measured by volume, it is 52,513 cu ft.
When people place houses, cars, and walkways underneath and around trees is when Tree Care comes into play.
This populated, built environment adds stress to trees. We often see improperly pruned trees, few mature sized trees, water management issues, and depeleted nutrient and soil requirements. We must help each tree retain and often regain its vitality when stressed by the urban environment.
Still, it is possible to make sure your trees have everything they need to grow healthy, large, and beautiful. In turn, your trees are able to give back more to you when properly cared for as we discussed in last quarter's Preservation Report, The Value of Trees
Trees in urban environments deal with these common stresses.
- Construction Damage
- Restricted Living space
- Compact Soil
- Mechanical Damage
What you can do to protect the longevity of your trees.
Monitor your tree's soil compaction.
1. Soil Decompaction
The soil around your trees can become too hard for them to absorb enough nutrients. Soil compaction is the biggest offender of stressing trees. It often goes unnoticed, reducing root growth and further increasing the chance of root rot, overthrow from wind, and compounding structural damage.
Soil compaction can happen from many things:
- Driving or foot traffic over the tree's root zone (even in something small such as a golf cart)
- Removing leaves from the base of the tree
- Never mulching
- Clay substrate
- Changing the soil level
Symptoms of highly compacted soil:
- Surface roots beyond the root flare
- Lack of organic matter
- Water runoff issues
- Dieback on the tips of branches or the new year's foliage is off color
Yes, I want more information on this topic:
+ What is Soil Compaction, and Why is Decompaction Necessary?
+ Watch a video of Odis decompacting soil.
(After clicking, scroll down the list to "Decompaction")
The following Preservation Reports will discuss these 4 tips to care for your 250+ year old tree.
2. Proper pruning
5. Not physically damaging the tree