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Am J Bot. 2000 May;87(5):601-7.

Apical control of branch growth and angle in woody plants.

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  • 1Department of Natural Resources Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003 USA.


Apical control is the inhibition of a lateral branch growth by shoots above it (distal shoots). If the distal shoots are cut off to remove apical control, the lateral branch can grow larger and may bend upwards. Apical control starts when new lateral buds grow after passing through a period of dormancy. Buds initially break and produce leaves, then apical control is exerted and the lower (proximal) laterals stop growing. Apical control also inhibits growth of large, old branches. Gravimorphism and restricted water and nutrient transport can inhibit branch growth, but they are not primary mechanisms of apical control. Apical control may reduce branch photosynthesis. Under apical control allocation of branch-produced assimilate to the stem is relatively high, so low assimilates in the branch may limit branch growth even though hormone levels are adequate for growth. Hormones appear to be involved in apical control, but it is not known how. One role of hormones may be to maintain the strength of the stem sink for branch-produced assimilate. Upward bending of a woody branch after release from apical control requires both new wood production and production of wood cells that can generate an upward bending moment. Apical control inhibits radial growth of branches and, in some species, may regulate the production of wood with an upward bending moment.

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