Epicormic branching in red oak crop trees five years after thinning and fertilizer application in a bottomland hardwood standThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Epicormic branches are defined as shoots arising from adventitious or dormant buds on the stem or branch of a woody plant, often following exposure to increased light levels or fire. They are a serious concern to hardwood forest managers because epicormic branches are considered defects and reduce the monetary value of logs and the lumber cut from them. The presence of epicormic branches is also considered a sign of stress in a tree. Recently, hardwood forest managers have considered genetics and tree health, in addition to exposure to sunlight, as causes of epicormic branching. A study was initiated to observe the effects of thinning (crown thinning, low thinning, and no thinning) and fertilizer application on the growth and development of designated red oak (Quercus spp.) crop trees in a minor creek flood plain in east Texas. Five years after treatment, there were no treatment differences in the number of epicormic branches on the butt log of crop trees. The mean number of epicormic branches on the butt log of red oak crop trees decreased 79 percent from 1999 to 2003, nearly 100 percent from branches ≤ 1 foot in length. This large decrease coincided with the ending of a 3-year drought in east Texas. The prevailing weather conditions and normal stand development patterns in this pin oak flat probably contributed more to epicormic branch reduction than did the thinning and fertilizer treatments.