Plants begin their development after seed germination. They grow, flower and finally senesce and die. The period from the start to death is called the longevity or age or life span and this period varies from species to species. For example, some plants, like annuals, complete their life cycles within a few months whereas others live for a few centuries. For example, the life of Juniperus scopulorum is around 3,000 years. The period just before death is called the senescent period.
This may be compared to old age in animals. In this period deterioration occurs because there is a consistent decrease in viability and increase in vulnerability. This phase can be prolonged but cannot be reversed. Senescence may occur very quickly or may be a very slow process. In a plant sometimes the individual organs senesce while the whole plant may remain healthy. In annuals, the whole plant dies; in biennials, the plant dies only after two years, whereas in perennials, year after year the leaves and fruits are shed but the main plant survives.