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Apical dominance

TLDR: Apical dominance is when the main stem of a plant grows stronger than the side stems. It helps the plant grow upward and get more light for photosynthesis.

Apical dominance is a phenomenon in plants where the main stem of the plant grows stronger than the side stems. This is important because it allows the plant to grow upward and reach more light for photosynthesis. The main stem, also known as the shoot apex, exerts control over the growth of lateral buds, which are the side stems on a branch. The shoot apex produces a plant hormone called auxin, which inhibits the growth of the lateral buds. This hormone is transported throughout the plant and prevents the lateral buds from elongating. This control by the shoot apex is known as apical dominance.

When the apical bud is removed, the concentration of auxin decreases, allowing the lateral buds to grow and produce new shoots. This competition among the lateral buds determines which one will become the lead growth. Plant physiologists have identified four stages that the plant goes through after the apical bud is removed: lateral bud formation, imposition of inhibition (apical dominance), initiation of lateral bud outgrowth, and elongation and development of the lateral bud into a branch. These stages are regulated by different hormones, such as cytokinin and gibberellic acid, which promote or inhibit growth in different parts of the plant.

Apical dominance can be manipulated for various purposes. For example, pruning techniques like coppicing and pollarding take advantage of apical dominance to shape the growth of trees and shrubs. By removing the apical bud, lateral buds are allowed to grow and produce new shoots, which can be trained to create desired shapes or patterns. This technique is used in practices like espalier creation, hedge building, and topiary sculptures. Additionally, reducing apical dominance can be beneficial for fruit trees that have poor side limb development. By cutting off the auxin flow above specific side buds, orchardists can stimulate their growth and improve the overall shape and productivity of the tree.

In conclusion, apical dominance is a natural phenomenon in plants where the main stem grows stronger than the side stems. It helps the plant grow upward and compete with neighboring plants for light. By understanding and manipulating apical dominance, we can shape the growth of plants to suit our needs and create beautiful and productive gardens.

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