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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Thuja occidentalis, Plant longevity, Thuja

What is the typical life of an arborvitae tree?


Arborvitae is the common name of Thuja, usually Thuja occidentalis. As with human beings, lifespan can only be an estimate, due to various circumstances which affect health and longevity. Urban growing conditions differ from those experienced by plants growing in the wild, for example. An article in The International Journal of Plant Sciences, Vol. 153, No. 1 (March 1992) by P. E. Kelly, et al. suggests that T. occidentalis growing on cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada could be over 1,000 years old.

The record for this tree in the Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute database, SelecTree, indicates that its lifespan ranges from 40 to 150 years. Columnar arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis 'fastigiata,' is listed as having a lifespan of 50 to 150 years.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center provides more information on Thuja occidentalis, too. Here is an excerpt:

"In a crowded environment, this tree is slender and not well-branched. In the open, it improves in form and density. The evergreen can be single- or multi-trunked and columnar or conical in shape. Eastern arborvitae can grow 40-60 ft. tall, but under cultivation will probably be no taller than 30 ft. Branches end in flat, spreading, horizontal sprays of fragrant, dark-green foliage which turns yellow-green or slight brown in winter. Resinous and aromatic evergreen tree with angled, buttressed, often branched trunk and a narrow, conical crown of short, spreading branches.

Probably the first North American tree introduced into Europe, it was discovered by French explorers and grown in Paris about 1536. The year before, tea prepared from the foliage and bark, now known to be high in vitamin C, saved the crew of Jacques Cartier from scurvy. It was named arborvitae , Latin for tree-of-life, in 1558. The trees grow slowly and reach an age of 400 years or more."

An article from the May 2002 issue of the Journal of Arboriculture lists Thuja occidentalis as a long-lived tree with a medium growth rate. They define "long" as over 200 years. However, most arborvitae one sees in urban landscapes would be unlikely to survive that long, due to many variables (poor planting methods, overcrowding, pollution, exposure to lawn chemicals, etc.).

Date 2017-06-09
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May 31 2018 13:14:08