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No Correlation between Latewood Formation and Leader Growth in Douglas-Fir Saplings

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The width of earlywood and latewood in conifer xylem may have a profound effect on water transport and storage, vulnerability to embolism, and wood strength, yet the controls over the timing of latewood formation are unclear. Tracheids differentiating in the cambial zone are influenced by IAA, indole-3 acetic acid, the radial concentration gradient of which appears to either increase cell expansion (earlywood) or increase cell wall deposition (latewood). There are suggestive data that latewood begins to form when the growth of the leader stops, but definitive results are lacking. Height growth was measured in 14 Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) saplings at 10 dates between May and August, from the beginning of the growing season until after height growth had ceased. The cambium was also pinned six times between June and July, to induce xylem scarring at known dates. After height growth ceased, saplings were harvested and transverse sections of the wood were made at the pin insertion points. The date at which 95% of the height growth had occurred and the date at which latewood formation had begun were estimated. Analysis showed no correlation of these data, suggesting that the two phenomena may occur around the same time, but that one is not causal of the other.


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