Unearthing belowground bud banks in fire-prone ecosystems
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© 2018 New Phytologist Trust. Despite long-time awareness of the importance of the location of buds in plant biology, research on belowground bud banks has been scant. Terms such as lignotuber, xylopodium and sobole, all referring to belowground bud-bearing structures, are used inconsistently in the literature. Because soil efficiently insulates meristems from the heat of fire, concealing buds below ground provides fitness benefits in fire-prone ecosystems. Thus, in these ecosystems, there is a remarkable diversity of bud-bearing structures. There are at least six locations where belowground buds are stored: roots, root crown, rhizomes, woody burls, fleshy swellings and belowground caudexes. These support many morphologically distinct organs. Given their history and function, these organs may be divided into three groups: those that originated in the early history of plants and that currently are widespread (bud-bearing roots and root crowns); those that also originated early and have spread mainly among ferns and monocots (nonwoody rhizomes and a wide range of fleshy underground swellings); and those that originated later in history and are strictly tied to fire-prone ecosystems (woody rhizomes, lignotubers and xylopodia). Recognizing the diversity of belowground bud banks is the starting point for understanding the many evolutionary pathways available for responding to severe recurrent disturbances.
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