Sympodial and monopodial branching in Acer (Aceraceae): Evolutionary trend and ecological implications

Satoki Sakai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The evolutionary trend and its ecological implications in sympodial and monopodial branching patterns has been investigated in 20 Japanese Acer spp. through comparison of shoot tip abortion and terminal bud formation. The genus is divided into two species groups according to its branching pattern, one (6 species) predominantly exhibiting sympodial branching with frequent monopodial branching in short shoots (sympodial species), and the other (14 species) exhibiting only monopodial branching (monopodial species). The early ontogeny of leaf and bud scales is described. Despite the difference in branching patterns, the bud scales of terminal buds are essentially the same in having a leaf base developed to function as a protecting organ. In all the sympodial species, during the abortion of a sympodium shoot tip, one or two pairs of primordia were found to occur on the apex, and later wither. These primordia resemble bud scales of terminal buds in their ontogeny and morphology, and appear to be rudimentary. It is suggested that a rudimentary terminal bud develops together with the establishment of sympodial branching, and that sympodial branching has originated from monopodial branching. Based on this proposed evolutionary trend, it is suggested that Acer has moved from less shady habitats into shady habitats with monopodial branching (advantageous for vertical growth) changing into sympodial branching (advantageous for lateral spread).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-197
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Systematics and Evolution
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 1990 Mar 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Acer
  • Aceraceae
  • Angiosperms
  • Sympodial and monopodial branching
  • adaptive strategy
  • evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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