Stem-righting mechanism in gymnosperm trees deduced from limitations in compression wood development

Ann Bot. 2007 Mar;99(3):487-93. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcl270. Epub 2007 Jan 11.


Background and aims: In response to inclination stimuli, gymnosperm trees undergo corrective growth during which compression wood develops on the lower side of the inclined stem. High compressive growth stress is generated in the compression wood region and is an important factor in righting the stem. The aims of the study were to elucidate how the generation of compressive growth stress in the compression wood region is involved in the righting response and thus to determine a righting mechanism for tree saplings.

Methods: Cryptomeria japonica saplings were grown at inclinations of 0 degrees (vertical) to 50 degrees. At each inclination angle, the growth stress on the lower side of the inclined stem was investigated, together with the degree of compression-wood development such as the width of the current growth layer and lignin content, and the upward bending moment.

Key results: Growth stress, the degree of compression wood development, and the upward moment grew as the stem inclination angle increased from 0 to 30 degrees, but did not rise further at inclinations > 30 degrees.

Conclusions: The results suggest the following righting mechanism for gymnosperm saplings. As the stem inclination is elevated from 0 to 30 degrees, the degree of compression wood development increases to force the sapling back to its original orientation; at inclinations > 30 degrees, the maximum degree of compression wood is formed and additional time is needed for the stem to reorient itself.

MeSH terms

  • Cryptomeria / anatomy & histology
  • Cryptomeria / growth & development*
  • Cryptomeria / metabolism
  • Gravitropism / physiology*
  • Lignin / metabolism
  • Plant Stems / anatomy & histology
  • Plant Stems / growth & development
  • Plant Stems / metabolism
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Trees / anatomy & histology
  • Trees / growth & development*
  • Trees / metabolism
  • Wood / anatomy & histology
  • Wood / growth & development
  • Wood / metabolism


  • Lignin