Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems
REVIEW

Buds, bushfires and resprouting in the eucalypts

G. E. Burrows

Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia. Email: gburrows@csu.edu.au

Australian Journal of Botany 61(5) 331-349 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/BT13072
Submitted: 18 March 2013  Accepted: 13 May 2013   Published: 27 June 2013

Abstract

Eucalypts encounter a wide range of severe disturbances such as extensive defoliation by insects, major structural damage from cyclonic winds, as well as foliage and bark loss during drought and fire. Most healthy, mature eucalypts are not killed by these events, but regenerate vegetatively. With increasing intensity of disturbance, resprouting first occurs from the accessory buds in the small-diameter branchlets of the crown, followed by the epicormic buds in the medium- and large-diameter branches and stems, and then from the buds of the lignotuber. All these modes of regeneration are ultimately dependent on preventitious buds and, thus, the present review concentrates on axillary buds, their subsequent development into epicormic or lignotuber buds and their degree of protection from fire. The eucalypts have remarkably abundant, well protected and anatomically distinctive bud-forming structures in their leaf axils, branches, stems and lignotubers. These structures are quite consistent across this large genus, but are generally different from resprouting structures in many other plants. From an anatomical perspective, these structures seem best adapted to regeneration after fire, rather than damage from insects, storms or drought and this also correlates with ecological observations. On a worldwide basis, the eucalypts are some of the most successful post-fire resprouters, especially epicormic resprouting after medium- and high-intensity fires. Given the apparent ecological advantages of epicormic resprouting (the rapid reestablishment of extensive leaf area while simultaneously shading basal resprouters and seedlings) this could be an important factor in the success of eucalypts in Australia. Recent phylogenetic analysis has indicated a long relationship between eucalypts, fire and bud structures that facilitate resprouting.

Additional keywords: accessory, axillary, epicormic, Eucalyptus, fire, lignotuber, meristems.


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