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Life Cycles of Trees

By Rochelle Connery ; Updated September 21, 2017
Trees go through several stages of life and remain in place even after death.

Each tree begins life as a seed, bringing forth foliage, buds and fruit, growing taller and thicker as it ages, and lives for years, depending on its variety and ease of life. Climate, weather and care determine a tree's exact life cycle.

Early Life

Once planted, a tree seed germinates into a sprout. If weather conditions allow the sprout to survive, it will grow into a seedling, at which point it will change from looking like a plant to developing a thin skin of bark.


Saplings are taller and more mature versions of seedlings. Garden centers typically sell trees at sapling size, as they are the ideal height and build for transplanting.

Adult Stage

Saplings become mature trees that sprout branches, grow new foliage and develop fruit, depending on the variety. If the tree does not bear fruit, it might develop buds instead.

Trunk Development

A mature tree's trunk grows thicker each year, developing one new layer of bark over top of the old one. According to North Carolina State University, the outer bark layer is dead and helps protect the inner layers.


Mature, dying trees are called snags. Dead trees can remain standing until rotted through or decomposed enough that they fall over.


About the Author


Rochelle Connery is a professional freelance author and has been writing skin care, travel, music and technology how-to articles since 2006. She has played piano for over 15 years, is a professional songwriter and holds her B.A. in communications from Louisiana Baptist University.