Axillary meristems and the development of epicormic buds in Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis).

Geoffrey Burrows, Cathy Offord, Trisha Meagher, Kim Ashton

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25 Citations (Scopus)


Intact trees of Wollemia nobilis Jones, Hill and Allen (Araucariaceae) routinely develop multiple coppice shoots as well as orthotropic epicormic shoots that become replacement or additional leaders. As these are unusual architectural features for the Araucariaceae, an investigation was made of the axillary meristems of the main stem and their role in the production of epicormic and possibly coppice shoots. Leaf axils, excised from the apex to the base of 2-m-high W. nobilis plants (seedling origin, ex situ grown), were examined anatomically. Small, endogenous, undifferentiated (no leaf primordia, no vascular or provascular connections) meristems were found in the axils from near the shoot apex. In the more proximal positions about half the meristems sampled did not differentiate further, but became tangentially elongated to compensate for increases in stem diameter. In the remaining axils the meristems slowly developed into bud primordia, although these buds usually developed few leaf primordia and their apical 'domes' were wide and flat. Associated vascular development was generally restricted to provascular dedifferentiation of the cortical parenchyma, with the procambium usually forming a 'closed loop' that did not extend back to the secondary vascular tissues. Development of the meristems was very uneven with adjacent axils often at widely differing stages of development into buds. The study shows that, unlike most conifers, W. nobilis possesses long-lived meristematic potential in most, if not all, leaf axils. Unlike other araucarias that have been investigated, many of the meristems in the orthotropic main stem will slowly develop into bud primordia beneath the bark in intact plants. It appears likely that this slow but continued development provides a ready source of additional or replacement leaders and thus new branches and leaves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)835-844
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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