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Shed twigs at the shore of Lake Constance.

Why do oak trees throw twigs away? Often people assume it’s a sign of drought stress or ageing. Some years ago, I studied this phenomenon in a research project.

Frequency distribution of abscised twigs for 3 years.

Most twigs are shed in autumn, when photosynthesis has ceased and drought is not an issue any more.

Age distribution of abscised twigs for 3 years.

Most shed twigs are one year old and leafless. Their shedding does not reduce transpiring leaf area.

Conclusions

Twig abscission (cladoptosis) is no immediate reaction to drought stress.

Most twigs are shed by vigourously growing trees, so it is not a sign of ageing either.

Further reading

  • forgottenwoods

  • Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab

  • RUST, Steffen; ROLOFF, Andreas. Reduced photosynthesis in old oak (Quercus robur): the impact of crown and hydraulic architecture. Tree Physiology, 2002, 22. Jg., Nr. 8, S. 597-601. pdf

  • RUST, Steffen; SOLGER, Alexander; ROLOFF, Andreas. Bottlenecks to water transport in Quercus robur L.: the abscission zone and its physiological consequences. Basic and Applied Ecology, 2004, 5. Jg., Nr. 3, S. 293-299. html

  • RUST, Steffen; ROLOFF, Andreas. Acclimation of crown structure to drought in Quercus robur L.—intra-and inter-annual variation of abscission and traits of shed twigs. Basic and Applied Ecology, 2004, 5. Jg., Nr. 3, S. 283-291. html


Steffen Rust Avatar Steffen Rust Baumbiologie, Baumpflege, Baumkontrolle.

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