Buds buried in bark: The reason why Quercus suber (cork oak) is an excellent post-fire epicormic resprouter

Geoffrey E. Burrows, Laura K. Chisnall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Epicormic resprouting has various ecological advantages over basal resprouting. However, after higher intensity fires epicormic resprouting is rare as it is difficult for trees and shrubs to keep both their buds and vascular cambia alive. Quercus suber (cork oak) is the only European tree that can resprout epicormically after higher intensity fires. Q. suber develops very thick bark and it has been assumed, without anatomical evidence, that the bark protects the epicormic buds. We investigated if developmental anatomy could explain why Q. suber is an excellent post-fire epicormic resprouter. We examined buds from mature Q. suber trees, macroscopically using a stereo microscope and microscopically using semi-thin microtome sections. Q. suber produced buds in the foliage leaf axils and the bud scale axils. With the commencement of extensive phellem (cork) production the base of the epicormic buds remained at, or just below, the level of the phellogen and thus cork began to bury the buds, although a narrow tube connected each bud to the bark surface. Q. suber epicormic buds became deeply buried in the phellem and would be protected from heat by the full phellem thickness. With its rapid and substantial development of phellem Q. suber had well-protected epicormic buds even in relatively small diameter stems. These results provide the anatomical evidence to show why Q. suber is a noted epicormic resprouter after crown fire.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-254
Number of pages14
JournalTrees - Structure and Function
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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