Understanding the Life Cycle of a Tree

The life cycle of a tree is quite interesting to learn about, especially as some species can live for 300 years or longer. Understanding the stages of its life also allows you to take better care of your mature tree. 

In this post, Top Notch Tree, Rockland’s reliable tree assessment experts, explains more about this process. 

life cycle of a tree

The Growing Parts of the Tree

To better understand the tree’s life cycle, you need to know more about the growing parts of the tree: 

  • Branches grow from buds, lengthening outward and widening the crown. The leaves, flowers, and stems also grow from the buds, which form during summer. 
  • The cambium layer expands outwards, making the trunk thicker.
  • The root tips stretch out, searching for food and moisture. When establishing young trees, it’s essential to support the roots to ensure a solid foundation. 

The Life Cycle of a Tree

The life cycle of a tree consists of distinct stages that are easy to identify and understand. 


Trees start from seeds that come in all shapes and sizes. Some have hard shells like walnuts, some have paper wings, and others have soft fruit, like mulberry trees. What the seed looks like doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that it contains the beginnings of a new tree and some nutrients to support growth. When the seed germinates, the roots break through the coat and anchor to the ground. 


It’s hard work for the roots to break out, but once they do, the seedling begins to grow and harden. The bark takes on a darker color and starts to look more like mature wood. At this stage, it’s easy to distinguish the trunk and roots, although the roots will be more extensive than the canopy. 

It’s during this stage that the tree is most vulnerable because it doesn’t have the resources to guard against extremes of weather and disease. Also, while the trunk is harder, it’s still relatively easy for predators to munch on. 


We consider the sprout a sapling when it establishes itself and its trunk has a diameter between one and four inches. With most species, this will be when the tree is between 3 and 15 feet tall. 

Saplings are stronger than sprouts but still vulnerable, so you need to take special care of them. 


If all goes well, the sapling will mature and grow into a full-fledged tree. At this stage, it begins reproducing, making its own seeds, and spreading out. Lumber comes from trees in this stage of their life cycle. 


Over time, the tree begins to decline with old age. It becomes less resilient to bugs and disease and starts to decay. The decaying tree can last for many years as it is but will pose a significant safety hazard. 

Contact Your Local Experts

Need more information on the life cycle of a tree or a tree risk assessment? Call Top Notch Tree at (781) 871-8008 to schedule a consultation. 

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