The Gymnosperm Database


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Vegetative Reproduction in Conifers and Ginkgo

In February 2012, forest geneticist Thierry Lamant sent me a short article he had prepared on natural vegetative reproduction in conifers, and that paper (Lamant 2012) was the basis of this summary. I have modified it to begin to develop a table identifying species that possess various different modes of vegetative reproduction. However, Thierry is the source of most of the data presented on this page, as cited below.

Vegetative reproduction is the capacity of a woody plant to replicate itself as a genetically identical but physically separate plant. Such replicates may remain physically connected to the parent plant but the connection is not obligate. The mechanisms of vegetative reproduction in conifers include layering, epicormic buds, and root suckers.

Layering is a simple and familiar concept, essentially the same as growing a plant from a cutting: stem tissues, put into soil, produce root tissues. This capacity is common, although less so in conifers than in many other plants. Epicormic sprouts and suckers, though, are a more specialized form of reproduction which relies on the presence of dormant buds in plant tissue, which may be activated by plant growth substances (often called plant hormones) produced in response to various triggers such as increased light availability or injury to the tree. It is not known why epicormic buds occur in some conifers but not in others. The capacity to produce epicormic buds has important ecological implications, though. In long-lived conifers, epicormic shoots allow a tree to relocate its branches over time as old ones die and new ones arise from epicormic buds. In younger trees, the ability to resprout from a stump allows a tree to persist despite severe disturbances such as fire. As Ishii et al. (2007) put it, "dormant buds form a bud bank that contributes to reiteration of architectural units within the tree, and is analogous to the seed bank that contributes to regeneration of individuals on the forest floor. As with the seed bank, species adapted to frequent disturbances may maintain a large bud bank. Species adapted to infrequent disturbances may maintain a relatively small bud bank, but sprouting may occur regularly as a mechanism of crown maintenance."

Note: in the following table, "Mode" indicates modes of vegetative reproduction, "L" indicates layering, "EB" epicormic branching, "ER" epicormic regeneration, and "S" suckering. "None" indicates that a source (cited) has looked for and not found any form of vegetative reproduction, and "unkn" indicates that I have not found a source that addresses the topic of vegetative reproduction for that species or group.

Taxon Mode Source and Comments
Agathis borneensiERLamant (2012).
Agathis robustaERLamant (2012).
Agathis, other spp.unkn
Araucaria araucanaS"At the time of a visit to the park of a retirement home at Colpo in the Morbihan (Brittany), my friend and colleague Loic Nicolas showed me a group of Araucaria araucana where a one-hundred-year-old specimen had some root suckers not far from the trunk" (Lamant 2012).
Araucaria bidwilliiEBLamant (2012).
Araucaria cunninghamiiEB, ER, SLamant (2012).
Araucaria humboldtensisEB"The above-ground portion of the tree must be damaged in order for epicormic buds to give rise to sprouts" (Lamant 2012).
Araucaria, other spp.unkn
Wollemia nobilisEBLamant (2012).
Actinostrobus spp.unknLamant (2012).
Athrotaxis cupressoidesER, LLamant (2012).
Athrotaxis, other spp.unkn
Austrocedrus chilensisLLamant (2012).
Callitris spp.unknLamant (2012).
Calocedrus sp.unkn
Chamaecyparis sp.LLamant (2012).
Cryptomeria japonicaER, LLamant (2012).
Cunninghamia lanceolataERLamant (2012).
Cupressus funebrisEB"Didier Maerki has indicated to me that some individuals of Cupressus funebris at the Arboretum of Villardebelle, have produced new branches on the trunk following injury to the aerial portion of the tree, to the point of completely replacing the injured stem" (Lamant 2012).
Cupressus, other spp.unkn
Diselma archerinoneDoes not regenerate by epicormics or suckers; layering is not reported (Lamant 2012).
Fitzroya cupressoidesER, LER, L have been observed in habitat; Veblen and Ashton (1982) state that it occurs "after low or medium intensity fires" (Lamant 2012).
Glyptostrobus pensilisunknLamant (2012).
Juniperus asheiERLamant (2012).
Juniperus coahuilensis var. arizonicaERLamant (2012).
Juniperus deppeanaERLamant (2012).
Juniperus excelsa ssp. polycarposERLamant (2012).
Juniperus foetidissimaERLamant (2012).
Juniperus horizontalisER, LLamant (2012), citing Allan R. Taylor, pers. comm., for L.
Juniperus pinchotiiERLamant (2012).
Juniperus thuriferaERLamant (2012).
Juniperus, other spp.unkn
Libocedrus spp.unknLamant (2012).
Libocedrus uviferaER, LThis has been observed in habitat (Lamant 2012).
Metasequoia glyptostroboidesnoneLamant (2012).
Microbiota decussataunknLamant (2012).
Neocallitropsis pancheriunknLamant (2012).
Papuacedrus papuanaunknLamant (2012).
Platycladus orientalisLLamant (2012).
Sequoia sempervirensEB, ERMost branches on old trees are derived from epicormic sprouts (Sillett and Van Pelt 2007); most trees are derived from stump sprouts.
Sequoiadendron giganteumEBLamant (2012).
Taiwania sp.noneLamant (2012).
Taxodium sp.EBLamant (2012).
Tetraclinis articulataERLamant (2012).
Thuja sp.LLamant (2012).
Thuja plicataEBIshii et al. (2007).
Thujopsis dolabrataLLamant (2012).
Widdringtonia nodifloraERThis species' habitat is regularly burned. Epicormic regeneration is not known in W. whytei (Lamant 2012).
Gingko bilobaEB, ERLamant: occurred in the case of a specimen located not far from the site of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb detonation.
Abies sp.EBLamant (2012).
Abies grandisEBIshii et al. (2007).
Abies lasiocarpaLI have seen this widely, mostly at alpine sites (Earle 1993).
Abies, other spp.unkn
Cathaya argyrophyllaunknLamant (2012).
Cedrus sp.EBLamant (2012).
Keteleeria sp.ERLamant (2012).
Larix occidentalisEBLanner (1996).
Larix, other spp.unkn
Nothotsuga longibracteataERLamant (2012).
Picea engelmanniiLEarle: numerous pers. obs., mostly at alpine sites.
Picea glaucaLLamant 2012: pers. obs. at arboreta.
Picea omorikaLLamant 2012: pers. obs. at arboreta.
Picea orientalisLLamant 2012: pers. obs. at arboreta.
Picea rubensEBIshii et al. (2007).
Picea sitchensisEBDeal et al 2003; also many pers. obs. of trees in habitat.
Picea smithianaEBLamant (2012).
Picea, other spp.unkn
Pinus canariensisEB, ERLamant 2012, citing Frankis pers. comm.: In the field epicormic sprouts is evident only after stress caused by cold or the passage of fire, but sprouts are common on cultivated plants. It is easy to reproduce Pinus canariensis by cuttings made from the sprouts.
Pinus cembroidesEB, ERMarie-Francoise Passini has noted both trunk and branch regeneration "apparently thanks to epicormic buds following pruning” (Lamant 2012).
Pinus echinataEBLamant.
Pinus georginaeEB"Jorge Perez de la Rosa has observed buds at the base of the trunk" (Lamant 2012).
Pinus leiophylla var. leiophyllaERLamant 2012: pers. comm. Perez de la Rosa, 2005
Pinus leiophylla var. chihuahuanaERLamant 2012: pers. comm. Perez de la Rosa, 2005
Pinus maximartineziiEB, ERMarie-Francoise Passini has noted both trunk and branch regeneration "apparently thanks to epicormic buds following pruning” (Lamant 2012).
Pinus oocarpaERGrows back readily from the stump after a fire (Lamant 2012).
Pinus praetermissaERLamant 2012: pers. comm. Perez de la Rosa, 2005
Pinus quadrifoliaEBI have seen this on trees in habitat in Sierra Juarez, Baja California, in 2001.
Pinus rigidaEBLamant (2012).
Pinus serotinaEB"Following fires which destroy all branches but do not kill the trees, epicormic sprouting results in entire forests of odd-looking cylindrical pond pines, the trunk thickly beset with needles, the outline of the tree a narrow cylinder 10-20 meters tall and less than 1 meter in diameter from base to summit" (Weakley 1997).
Pinus, other spp.unkn
Pseudolarix amabilisERLamant (2012).
Pseudotsuga macrocarpaEBProduces new branches from epicormic buds if the trunks and branches have been exposed to fire (Lamant 2012).
Pseudotsuga menziesiiEBLifespan of the tree greatly exceeds that of branches, so almost all branches on very old trees are derived from epicormic sprouting (Ishii and Ford 2001, Van Pelt and Sillett 2008). Also occurs in subsp. glauca (Bryan and Lanner 1981).
Pseudotsuga, other spp.unkn
Tsuga spp.unkn
Acmopyle sp.unknLamant (2012).
Afrocarpus usambarensisERLamant (2012).
Dacrycarpus sp.unknLamant (2012).
Dacrydium sp.unknLamant (2012).
Falcatifolium sp.unknLamant (2012).
Halocarpus sp.unknLamant (2012).
Lagarostrobos frankliniiLLamant (2012).
Lepidothamnus sp.unknLamant (2012).
Manoao sp.unknLamant (2012).
Microcachrys sp.unknLamant (2012).
Nageia sp.unknLamant (2012).
Parasitaxus sp.unknLamant (2012).
Pherosphaera sp.unknLamant (2012).
Phyllocladus asplenifoliusERLamant (2012).
Phyllocladus toatoaERLamant (2012).
Podocarpus spinulosaLLamant (2012).
Podocarpus drouyianusSLamant (2012).
Podocarpus latifoliusERLamant (2012).
Podocarpus, other spp.unkn
Prumnopitys sp.unknLamant (2012).
Retrophyllum sp.unknLamant (2012).
Saxegothaea sp.unknLamant (2012).
Sundacarpus sp.unknLamant (2012).
Sciadopitys verticillataunknLamant (2012).
Amentotaxus sp.ERLamant (2012).
Austrotaxus sp.ERLamant (2012).
Pseudotaxus sp.ERLamant (2012).
Taxus sp.ERLamant (2012).
Torreya sp.ERLamant (2012).
Cephalotaxus sp.ERLamant (2012).


Adams, Robert P. 2008. Junipers of the World: The Genus Juniperus. Second edition. Trafford Publishing. Brief versions of the descriptions are available online at Adam's website,

Bryan, J.A. and R.M. Lanner. 1981. Epicormic branching in Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 11:190–199.

Burrows, G.-E., C.-A. Offord, P.-F. Meagher, and K. Ashton. 2003. Axillary meristems and the development of epicormic buds in Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis). Oxford journal, Life sciences, Annals of Botany, vol. 92, issue 6 (pp. 835-844).

Deal, Robert L., R. James Barbour, Michael H. McClellan, and Dean L. Parry. 2003. Development of epicormic sprouts in Sitka spruce following thinning and pruning in south-east Alaska. Forestry 76(4):401-412.

Evans, J. 1982. Plantation Forestry in the Tropics. Tree Planting for Industrial, Social, Environmental, and Agroforestry Purposes. Oxford University Press.

Farjon (2005).

Ishii, H., and E. D. Ford. 2001. The role of epicormic shoot production in maintaining foliage in old Pseudotsuga menziesii trees. Canadian Journal of Botany 79:251-264.

Ishii, H. T., E. D. Ford, and M. C. Kennedy. 2007. Physiological and ecological implications of adaptive reiteration as a mechanism for crown maintenance and longevity. Tree Physiology 27:455-462.

Lamant, Thierry. 2012. Vegetative reproduction in gymnosperms. Journal de l’Association des Parcs Botaniques de France n. 53, 5 pp. Does not contain specific citations but bibliography cites Adams 2008, Burrows et al. 2003, Evans 1982, Farjon 2005, Matthews 1991, and Zegers 2006.

Lanner, R.M. 1996. The role of epicormic branches in the life history of western larch: In Ecology and management of Larix forests: a look ahead. Eds. W. C. Schmidt and C. Wyman. USDA For. Serv. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-319, Logan, UT, pp. 323–326.

Matthews, J.-D. 1991. Silvicultural systems. Oxford University Press.

Sillett, S.C., and R. Van Pelt. 2007. Trunk reiteration promotes epiphytes and water storage in an old-growth redwood forest canopy. Ecological Monographs 77: 335-359.

Van Pelt, R., and S.C. Sillett. 2008. Crown development of coastal Pseudotsuga menziesii, including a conceptual model for tall conifers. Ecological Monographs 78: 283-311.

Weakley, Alan S. 1997. Flora of the Carolinas and Virginia, Working Draft of 1 January 1997 -- Gymnosperm Key. , accessed 2012.03.12.

Zegers, C.-D. 2006. Las especies arbóreas de bosques templados de Chile y Argentina. Autoecología - Marisa Cuneo Ediciones Valdivia. Chile.

Last Modified 2017-12-29