Palm trees are among the most extraordinary trees on our planet, and they bring a wonderfully tropical vibe to any environment. You might look at them and wonder about the palm tree life span. Let’s find out how long do palm trees live.
There are many different types of palm trees, so the age will vary a bit, but in general, a healthy palm tree will live between seven and ten decades, provided it is planted in a suitable environment and is not damaged or attacked by diseases. That’s an impressive lifespan, even for a tree!
How Long Do Palm Trees Live?
Palm trees vary quite a lot in terms of how long they can live, and obviously, their environment will have a big impact on their lifespan. There are over 2500 kinds of palms, so it’s no surprise that they vary a lot in terms of their longevity.
It’s also important to note that palm trees that have been planted in unfavorable conditions or that get attacked by diseases or fungi will not live nearly as long as healthy counterparts. A palm in a cold environment may not flourish, even if it grows and seems healthy.
As many palm trees grow in very windy conditions, they are also often felled before they reach old age. Hurricanes and storms can tear them up and kill them, especially if they are near the coast, where the weather is particularly wild at times.
However, palm trees can survive up to a hundred years in good conditions, and some may even exceed this if they are particularly healthy specimens. Palms reach up to great heights, and they need a long time to get this big, which may explain the lengthy lifespan to some degree.
Palms can easily outlive humans, so think carefully before planting a palm tree on your grounds, and make sure that you want it there. It will get very big and last a very long time, so it’s quite a commitment to make – and one you shouldn’t make lightly!
Let’s explore the different lifespans in more detail so you know which palm trees are likely to live the longest, and which will die much sooner.
Which Palm Tree Has The Longest Lifespan?
There are a few competitors for the longest lifespan among the palm tree family, but the Mexican Fan Palm is a particularly notable specimen that has an average lifespan (not even a maximum!) of about a hundred years.
If you plant one of these, it will almost certainly outlive you unless something happens to it.
Date palms are another top contender for the longest lifespan, as they can also reach around a hundred years old. However, because they are such tall trees, they are more vulnerable to falling before they have reached old age, so they may not live as long as Mexican Fan Palms, even though they are capable of doing so.
A slightly shorter-lived but still impressive variety is the Coconut Palm, perhaps the most famous kind of palm. These can reach about eighty or ninety years old in the best conditions, which is still very impressive. They can also grow about a hundred feet tall!
Which Palm Tree Has The Shortest Lifespan?
Of all the palm trees, the Areca Palm probably has the shortest average lifespan. These trees usually only survive for around forty years, and they are much smaller than other palm trees.
This often makes them popular (and more suitable) for growing at home, but you should bear the short lifespan in mind when choosing one of these trees. It is not a long-lived variety and you may find that you have to replace it at some stage, even if you give it the best possible environment to grow in.
Oil palms are also quite short-lived, but they are often felled when they are around twenty-five years old because their fruit grows out of reach. If they are not felled, they will live a lot longer than twenty-five years, but because of the feeling, their average life expectancy is massively decreased.
How Can You Tell How Old A Palm Tree Is?
It is not very easy to tell how old a palm tree is, so if you are thinking of planting a palm tree yourself, you should write down the year somewhere so that you (or others) can refer to it when trying to age the tree.
This will let you keep track of how old it is, and should help you estimate when it will need to be replaced.
If you are trying to work out a palm tree’s age without a date, you are going to have a harder time of it, and no method works a hundred percent of the time. The traditional method of counting a tree’s rings to show the phases of its growth does not work with palm trees.
You can’t cut a deceased palm off to work out how old the tree was when it died, because a palm tree’s trunk is not a trunk, and is not made of wood. They are made of a cellular structure that consists of fibrous strands in continuous lines. They have no bark, and they are not classified as wood.
That means you can’t look at the rings, because there won’t be any, and they would not necessarily refer to the years of the tree anyway.
The best way that has thus far been discovered to age a palm tree is to count how many frond scars the tree has. Because palms shed fronds as they get older, a lot of frond scars indicate the tree is mature, whereas a few show that the tree is young.
However, fronds grow at varying rates according to the conditions and the health of the tree. They may also be shed at varying rates. A tree that grows in windy conditions may lose more fronds than a tree growing in a sheltered spot.
That means that while counting frond scars can indicate the approximate age of a tree, they do not give anything like an accurate number of years. Unfortunately, this is currently still the best way to age a palm.
You can couple this with looking at its height and estimating its age based on how fast it grows. Their growth varies by species, but many can gain a few feet per year.
Look at the average growth rate for the type of palm tree you are assessing, and use this as a secondary guide. Bear in mind that the conditions will have a massive impact on the tree’s growth rate.
With both pieces of information, you may be able to guess at the tree’s age, although this is unlikely to be very accurate. It should still give you a guide, and that’s the best that can be done for palm trees.
What Happens When A Palm Tree Dies?
You might be wondering how you can tell that your palm tree is close to death, assuming that you don’t know how old the tree is. Usually, you will see its fronds starting to die back, and it will stop flowering. The caliper of the tree may begin to die off.
You can also tell a palm is unhealthy if its growth ceases or its fronds turn yellow or brown and drop off. If the plant is not producing new, healthy growth, it is probably sick or dying.
There are a lot of diseases that will kill palm trees, so even if you don’t think it’s time for your palm tree to die, you should be prepared for losing it.
What Are The Life Stages Of A Palm Tree?
So, how does a palm tree’s life generally go? Let’s look at the life stages of a palm, although it should be noted that it may vary to a degree for some different types of palm.
Stage One: Germinating
As with all plants, palms must start with germination. This is the stage at which the seed takes root, and you will get a plant with just one leaf, to begin with. This is sometimes known as a monocot, and all palms start in this way, regardless of the species.
Sometimes, a palm’s first leaf will emerge a little way from the seed before the root system becomes visible, which is known as adjacent germination. Sometimes, the palm seed’s stem will appear before the roots do, and this is known as germinating remotely.
Both kinds should produce a healthy palm and you don’t need to worry about which kind occurs.
Stage Two: Vertical Growth And Caliper Growth
Once your palm has germinated, it will start to grow. That may sound simplistic, but essentially, your palm will just spend the next few years stretching toward the sun and gaining as much height as it can.
This is its vertical growth, and it’s very important. Your palm wants to get as close to the light as possible so it can outstrip competing plants and make enough food for itself.
During this time, it will put out new leaves, and the “trunk” will begin to thicken. Old leaves will be dropped away, and your plant will start looking much more like a miniature tree than it did, especially once it has established a good flush of fronds.
It will also put energy into its caliper (or stem) growth. Remember, the trunk of the palm tree is not made of wood, and it needs to widen and toughen to keep the tree upright.
To do this, it expands the tissues that make up its caliper, widening the stem or “trunk,” and giving itself stability. It will do this at the same time as gaining height.
If it doesn’t widen its caliper, it won’t be able to support itself and is likely to topple over.
Stage Three: Flowering
Once your palm tree has reached maturity, it will want to start spreading its seed, and it will therefore start producing flowers when the weather is warm. However, palm flowers are very small, and palms do not produce them in great quantities.
You might be able to see clusters of flowers even from a distance, but they are not spectacular or showy, and it’s easy to miss them.
Flowering is not an annual process for many palm trees. Some will flower every year, but most will only flower and produce fruit every few years, and some palm trees have just one flowering season in their whole lives.
Don’t worry if your palm doesn’t produce flowers and fruit very often. As long as its growth remains healthy and looks the proper color, it should be fine.
Stage Four: Fruit Production
Your palm’s intention in producing flowers is to produce fruit, and if local pollinators successfully pollinate the tree, fruit is the stage that follows the flowers. Local pollinators could be insects or even bats, depending on the kind of palm tree that you have.
You should be able to see the clusters of flowers forming into fruits if the pollination is successful, and with some kinds of palms, you can harvest and eat the fruits. If you choose not to, they will be eaten by local animals, so this is nothing to worry about!
Stage Five: End Of Life
Eventually your palm tree will reach the end of its natural life. This may happen after many decades if your palm is long-lived, but no matter how well you look after it, it will eventually die. You will see it lose its leaves, and it will no longer flower or fruit.
Once the palm has died, it will likely fall as its roots lose their strength and thickness. You should take down a palm tree that has died to prevent damage, and plant something else in its place.
Palm trees can live for an extraordinary amount of years, especially certain species. Not all palms are long-lived, and some of the smaller varieties may only live for around forty years, but others can easily reach a hundred years old if they are not damaged by wild weather or infections.