How Long Will My Tree Live?

Live oaks will grace the campus of SMU for perhaps centuries to come.

That’s a question that’s asked far less often than “What’s the best fast-growing shade tree?” I wish I could change that, because longevity is far more critical.

So to help you understand, I’m going to boil down part of a list I have on pages 80 and 81 of my book Neil Sperry’s Lone Star Gardening (see mention of the book on Main page of this e-gardens). I’ve listed my estimates of life expectancies of all the common Texas shade trees. From that longer list, I’ll choose the top ones.

Continued Below

What I really want you to notice is the inverse nature of speed of growth with life expectancies of these trees. The fast-growing trees will be in a logjam at the top of the list.

As graceful as they are, weeping willows are among our shortest-lived shade trees in Texas.

Life Expectancies of Texas Trees…
In case you’re considering planting a new tree in your landscape sometime in the next few months, do consider its expected longevity. I’ve made a list of my estimates. These will vary considerably. For example, Arizona and Leyland cypress have become highly susceptible to Seiridium canker. It will bring their numbers down. So will the Emerald ash borers that are now becoming a threat in Texas.

You might say, “Well, I’ll never live that long anyway,” but remember that quality shade trees also have far fewer problems along the way. And they add more value to your property at the time of resale. Fast growth is rarely an asset.

Tree species:Life expectancy:
Purple plum5-7 years
Weeping willow5-10 years
Ornamental pear10-20 years
Leyland cypress10-20 years
Arizona ash10-20 years
Siberian elm15-20 years
Eldarica pine15-20 years
Mimosa15-20 years
Fruitless mulberry15-25 years
American elm20-40 years
Silver maple20-40 years
Catalpa20-40 years
Green ash20-40 years
Lacebark elm20-40 years
Fruiting mulberry25-50 years
Golden raintree25-50 years
Deodar cedar25-50 years
Redbud25-50 years
Arizona cypress25-50 years
Mexican plum25-50 years
Sycamore30-60 years
Cottonwood30-60 years
Post oak50-75 years
Mesquite50-75 years
Loblolly pine50-75 years
Dogwood50-75 years
Red maple50-75 years
Japanese maple50-75 years
Eastern redcedar50-100 years
Sweetgum50-100 years
Yaupon holly75-100 years
Possumhaw holly75-100 years
Crape myrtle75-100 years
Ginkgo75-100 years
Chinese pistachio75-100 years
Cedar elm75-100 years
Bois d’arc75-100 years
Pecan100-150 years
Bur oak100-150 years
Chinquapin oak100-150 years
Water oak100-150 years
Shumard red oak100-150 years
Southern magnolia   100-150 years
Bald cypress100-200 years
Live oak100-500 years
Posted by Neil Sperry
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