Characterizing compression wood formed in radiata pine branches
IAWA Journal 2014, 35(4):385 – 394
Li X, Evans R, Gapare W, Yang X, Wu HX

The formation of reaction wood is an adaptive feature of trees in response to various mechanical forces. In gymnosperms, reaction wood consists of compression wood (CW) and opposite wood (OW) that are formed on the underside and upperside of bent trunks and branches. Although reaction wood formed in bent trunks has been extensively investigated, relatively little has been reported from conifer branches. In this study SilviScan® technology was used to characterize radiata pine branches at high resolution. Compared to OW formed in the branches, CW showed greater growth, darker colour, thicker tracheid walls, higher coarseness, larger microfibril angle (MFA), higher wood density, lower extensional stiffness and smaller internal specific surface area. However, tracheids of CW were similar to those of OW in their radial and tangential diameters. These results indicated that gravity influenced tracheid cell division and secondary wall formation but had limited impact on primary wall expansion. Furthermore, seasonal patterns of CW formation were not observed in the branches from cambial age 4 while earlywood and latewood were clearly separated in all rings of OW. The marked change of MFA during reaction wood formation suggested that branches could be ideal materials for further study of cellulose microfibril orientation.

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