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Older Trees

It’s been said that many of Atlanta’s trees are old and near the end of their life. There are those that think if we lose an old tree, well, it most likely would have died soon anyway and that we should be more focused on planting new trees. That’s an easy out for justifying removing a tree.


  • Some species of trees commonly found in Atlanta live as long as 200 years or more: American Beech, Sugar Maple, Northern Red Oak, White Oak and Tulip Poplar just to name a few.  Some, like Bald Cypress, have a life span of between 600 and 1,800 years. [1]
  • Estimating the age of a tree is difficult; urban trees even more so.  “Because trees in a landscape or park are often pampered, protected and sometimes older than forest grown trees, it is more of an art to aging these trees without significant error.” [2]  If you don’t know how old a tree is, how can you estimate its remaining life?
  • A five year old child who plants a tree today, will most likely not live long enough to see it grow to become as tall and old those we see in Atlanta’s old growth forest today.
  • Older trees are much more efficient at removing CO2 from the atmosphere than younger trees. [3][4][5]
  • Older trees manage much more storm water runoff than younger trees. A White Oak with a 30-inch DBH will capture 12,010 gallons, or 10,669 gallons more than a White Oak with a 10-inch diameter.[6]

Special Trees

  • A historic tree is a “…tree that has been designated by the tree conservation… to be of notable historic value and interest because of its age, size or historic association…”  The Atlanta Tree Commission’s site shows historic trees in Atlanta. [8]
  • A champion tree is defined as the largest known tree of a particular species in a particular city, region, or country.  Trees Atlanta has a page that lists Atlanta’s Champion Trees. [9]


[1]  Virginia Tech:  Lifespans of Common Trees in Virginia

[2]  Steve Nix: How to Estimate a Forest Tree’s Age

[3]  NPR: An Old Tree Doesn’t Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Bodybuilder

[4] The Huffington Post: Old Trees Grow Faster Than Young Ones, New Study Shows

[5]  Nature: Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size

[6]  TreeBenefits.com: National Tree Benefit Calculator

[7]  EPA: Stormwater Trees

[8]  Atlanta Tree Commission: Historic and landmark Trees in Atlanta

[9]  Trees Atlanta: Atlanta’s Champion Trees

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