Do plants die of old age?

“Yes, all plants die but not due to old age. External conditions such as storms, drought, flood, cold weather, and wildfire can be responsible for their death.”

We know that humans and animals die in their old age but have you ever wondered can trees die of old age?

As we grow old, there is a decline in the functioning of our body system. Senescence limits our ability to repair tissues and cells. Due to weak immunity, we likelihood of suffering from various medical issues such as heart attacks, high or low blood pressure. But is this the same case with plants or trees also?

We know that in plants, leaves and flowers show the deterioration of functional characteristics such as change of leave color from green to red or brown and shedding their leaves but plants don’t die because of these things.

Plants have a unique ability to repair their cells and tissues even when they grow old. All plants have meristem tissues that are capable of cell division and can develop into other tissues present in the plants. They are generally present at the root and shoot tips. Therefore, whenever any tissues or organ gets damaged, these meristematic cells develop into damaged tissues and repair these tissues.

Do You Know?

Bristlecone pine tree (Pinus longaeva) located in California’s White Mountain is the oldest tree (over 4,700 years old) in the world.

Plants need these following five essential things to survive

  1. Light: Plant uses sunlight to prepare glucose which acts as an energy source for them.
  2. Air: During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide to create oxygen and glucose. Plants also absorb oxygen to respire.
  3. Water: Water is very essential for plants to survive. They help in photosynthesis, transporting nutrients from roots to different parts of the plant.
  4. Nutrients: Plants require nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for nourishment.
  5. Space: Plants need space to spread to roots in order to absorb water and nutrients.

Read: Can Plants Survive Without Oxygen?

Without above essentials, plants can die without getting old.

Photosynthesis (Image source)

We know that plant has the ability to grow continuously and produce more flowers and fruits but there are some limitations such as

  • As the tree grows old, they reach their maximum height because they are not able to transport water and nutrients.
  • As they reach their maximum height, their ability to reproduce becomes constant.

There are some plants such as annual plants and biennial plants who have short lifespan.

Read: Are flowers asexual or sexual?

Annual plants: These plants complete their lifecycle within a single season from the germinating of seeds to producing seeds and then dies. Weeds, wildflowers, garden flowers, and vegetables are examples of annual plants.

Annual Plants (Image source)

Biennial plants: These are flowering plants which complete their biological cycle in 2 years. Examples of biennial plants are hollyhock, Lunaria, silverbeet, Black-eyed Susan, Sweet William, colic weed, and carrot.

Biennial Plants (Image Source)

External conditions that can affect the lifespan of the plants are

  1. Temperature: Increase in surrounding temperature affects the growth of the plants. Sometimes they might die due to high temperature
  2. Wildfire: as the temperature is increasing due to global warming, wildfire is a more common threat to plants’ life.
Wildfire (image source)
  1. Storms: Storms and cyclones can tear apart plants and their branches.
  2. Drought: unavailability of water might limit the growth of the plants or in some cases plant might die also.
  3. Extreme Cold weather: Extreme cold weather conditions can also be responsible for the death of the plants and trees
  4. Soil conditions: Lack of nutrients in the soil might also deteriorate the lifespan of the plants
  5. Parasites: Presence of parasites such as fungus in the roots, stems and other parts can kill its host plants.
  6. Boring Insects: Boring and tunneling insects generally feed on vascular tissues of the tree. If the damage is serious, the tree can die.
Bark Beetle (Image source)

Apart from these, there are a lot of external conditions such as lightning that can reduce the lifespan of plants. So trees may not die of old age but die due to these conditions.

Professor Atom

View posts by Professor Atom
Professor Atom is a science enthusiast and alumni of IIT Bombay. According to him, every question can be solved with curiosity and mind mapping. ( Curiosity = Asking Questions = Learning )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *