Apical dominance
In plant physiology
Plant physiology
Plant physiology is a subdiscipline of botany concerned with the functioning, or physiology, of plants. Closely related fields include plant morphology , plant ecology , phytochemistry , cell biology, and molecular biology.Fundamental processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, plant nutrition,...

, apical dominance is the phenomenon whereby the main central stem
Plant stem
A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes, the nodes hold buds which grow into one or more leaves, inflorescence , conifer cones, roots, other stems etc. The internodes distance one node from another...

 of the plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

 is dominant over (i.e., grows more strongly than) other side stems; on a branch the main stem of the branch is further dominant over its own side branchlets.

The apical bud (or Vermilion border tip) is the normally sharp demarcation between the lip (red colored) and the adjacent normal skin. Removing the apical tip and its suppressive hormone allows the lower dormant lateral buds to develop and the buds between the leaf stalk and stem to produce new shoots, which compete to become the lead growth. Manipulating this natural response to damage (known as the principle of apical dominance) by processes such as pruning (as well as coppicing
Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management which takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level...

 and pollarding
Pollarding is a pruning system in which the upper branches of a tree are removed, promoting a dense head of foliage and branches. It has been common in Great Britain and Europe since medieval times and is practiced today in urban areas worldwide, primarily to maintain trees at a predetermined...

) allows the horticulturist to determine the shape, size, and productivity of many fruiting trees and bushes.

Understanding the principle of apical dominance is helpful when embarking upon any regime of tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

 or other plant management. Plants form new tissue in an area called the meristem
A meristem is the tissue in most plants consisting of undifferentiated cells , found in zones of the plant where growth can take place....

, located near the tips of roots and shoots, where active cell division takes place. Meristem
A meristem is the tissue in most plants consisting of undifferentiated cells , found in zones of the plant where growth can take place....

 growth is aimed at ensuring that leaves are quickly elevated into sunlight, and that roots are able to penetrate deeply into the soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

. Once adequate height and length is achieved by the stems and roots, they will begin to thicken to give support to the plant. On the shoots, these growing tips of the plant are known as apical bud
A meristem is the tissue in most plants consisting of undifferentiated cells , found in zones of the plant where growth can take place....


Some fruit trees have strong apical dominance, and young trees can become "leggy", with poor side limb development. One can reduce the apical dominance in this case, or, in cases where limbs are broken off by accident, by cutting off the auxin flow above side buds that one wishes to stimulate. This is often done by orchardists for young trees: Select the bud along the leader (stem) where one desires a side branch to develop, or where one already is present, but growing too weakly. With a sharp knife, make a horizontal cut about a half-inch above it, just deep enough to break the cambium, and only about a quarter of the way around the stem. This breaks the flow of auxins that had suppressed its growth. Later, when a bud breaks, it can be trained or pruned as needed.

Occasionally, strong apical dominance is advantageous, as in the "Ballerina" apple
The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family . It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus that are used by humans. Apple grow on small, deciduous trees that blossom in the spring...

 trees. These trees are intended to be grown in small gardens, and their strong apical dominance combined with a dwarfing rootstock gives a compact narrow tree with very short fruiting side branches.
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