Fixit: Tree life spans vary by species

  • Article by: KAREN YOUSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 11, 2007 - 11:15 PM

Q Do trees have a certain or limited life span? I heard that elms had extraordinary life spans prior to Dutch elm disease. Is that true? What is the life span for a fruit tree? Does it matter if it's a regular or dwarf variety? Is there a tree that grows very fast, but because it has a short life span, shouldn't be planted?

Q Do trees have a certain or limited life span? I heard that elms had extraordinary life spans prior to Dutch elm disease. Is that true? What is the life span for a fruit tree? Does it matter if it's a regular or dwarf variety? Is there a tree that grows very fast, but because it has a short life span, shouldn't be planted?

A Tree longevity varies by species, but some individual plants will live longer than others, according to Nancy Rose, extension educator at the University of Minnesota Extension. Climate, soil conditions, diseases, insects and other hazards will affect the life span of a tree.

The American elm has a fairly long life span (perhaps 150 to 300 years), but other deciduous trees, including many oak species, can live even longer, Rose wrote in an e-mail. Conifers, including redwood, giant sequoia, Douglas fir and several pine species, usually have the greatest life spans. Currently, the oldest confirmed living tree is a bristlecone pine in the arid White Mountains of California. It is about 4,800 years old.

Fruit trees vary in longevity, but apple trees probably top the list. Standard fruit trees probably have a longer life span than dwarf varieties. Fruit trees in the genus Prunus, which includes cherries, plums, apricots and peaches, tend to be rather short-lived.

Fast-growing but short-lived trees tend to be poor choices for sustainable landscapes because they often develop disease or insect problems, often have weak wood and are expensive to remove from residential landscapes. Examples include many poplar species and some willows, including hybrid willows such as those sold as "Austrees."

However, these trees can be valuable when grown as crops for use as biofuels or for wood products such as paper.

Tylenol and alcohol don't mix

Q A person I know takes two Tylenols with her last drink to ward off hangovers. She swears this works. Is this safe? I always thought you shouldn't take medications with alcohol.

A No, it's not safe. When you take acetominophen, of which Tylenol is one brand name, most of it is converted in the liver to harmless compounds. But when you've been drinking, the liver is so preoccupied with metabolizing the alcohol that it processes the painkiller in a separate pathway where these compounds can become toxic, causing liver inflammation and permanent damage.

Stick to ibuprofen, says Dr. David Clayton, a physician and co-author of "The Healthy Guide to Unhealthy Living." And, he says, don't take it before bed: The drug's effectiveness peaks in about four hours, so it won't do anything for you by morning. You're better off taking 800 milligrams of ibuprofen an hour before you need to be functional.

From webmd.com

Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-9033, or e-mail fixit@startribune.com. Past columns are available at www.startribune.com/fixit. Sorry, Fixit cannot supply individual replies.

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