The Botanical Review

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 225–266 | Cite as

Lignotubers and burls— their structure, function and ecological significance in Mediterranean ecosystems

  • Susanne James


Vegetative regeneration provides for immediate tissue replacement and reestablishment of the “parent” genotype, after the aerial canopy of a perennial plant is partially or wholly destroyed. If the frequency of destruction of above-ground biomass (e.g., by fire) is such that tissue replacement (production) is the predominant mode of growth, this regenerative capacity may preadapt the plant for reproduction via vegetative growth.

In the perennial shrubs of the California chaparral, and in other similar Mediterranean-type ecosystems, one of the most significant modes of reproduction is characterized by sprouting after injury of new stem or root tissue from an ontogenetically produced swollen stem base/root crown known as a lignotuber (or “burl”). Lignotubers have been well described inEucalyptus (Myrtaceae) and observed in other families in the Mediterranean-type climate regions. “Burls” of shrubs in the family Ericaceae are morphologically similar to lignotubers. The term “burl” is vague in meaning, since it has been used to describe any anomalous or unusual woody structure with a swirled grain. The term lignotuber, which has a more restricted usage referring only to ontogenetically produced structures, should henceforth be used to describe these swollen “root crowns.” Investigations of lignotuber (burl) anatomy have revealed that the wood contains dormant buds, carbohydrates, and nutrients necessary for bud development.

Reproductive strategies and tactics have evolved partially in response to the frequency and severity of disturbance (e.g., fire in shrublands of Mediterranean-type ecosystems). Reproductive strategies are defined by the timing and mode of production and reproduction. Reproductive tactics are the options of “reproductive effort” and energy allocation within each strategy. In the chaparral, fynbos, macchia, etc., one prevalent tactic in the sprouting strategy is the allocation of energy to the woody structure which has sprouting as its prime function—the lignotuber.


Botanical Review Reproductive Strategy Energy Allocation Vegetative Regeneration Mediterranean Ecosystem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


La regeneratión vegetativa asegura la repositión inmediata de tejido y el re-establecimiento del genotipo “paterno” después que el dosel de una planta perenne ha sido total o parcialmente destruído. Si la frequencia de destructión de la biomasa por encima del nivel del suelo (por ejemplo, por fuego) es tal que el re-emplazamiento o productión de tejido es la forma de crecimiento predominante, esta capacidad regenerativa puede preadaptar a la planta para la reproducción via crecimiento vegetativo.

En los arbustos perennes del chaparral Californiano y en otros ecosistemas similares de tipo Mediterráneo, uno de los modos de reproducción más significativos está caracterizado por el retoño, después de una herida, de un tallo nuevo o del tejido de la raíz a partir de la base hinchada de un tallo o de la corona de la raíz, producidos ontogenéticamente conocido como lignotubo. Lignotubos han sido descritos en detalle enEucalyptus (Myrtáceae) y observados en otras familias en regiones con clima de tipo Mediterráneo. Los “nudos” en los arbustos de la familia Ericáceae son similares morfológicamente a los lignotubos. El término “nudo” tiene un significado un tanto vago puesto que ha sido usado para describir cualquier estructura anómala con un grano en espiral presente en la madera. El término lignotubo tiene un uso más restringido refiriéndose solamente a estructuras producidas ontogenéticamente y debería ser usado para describir estas hinchadas “coronas de la raíz.” Investigaciones de la anatomía del lignotubo (nudo) han revelado que la madera contiene brotes durmientes, carbohidratos, y los nutrientes necesarios para el desarrollo del brote.

Tácticas y estrategias reproductivas han evolucionado parcialmente en respuesta a la frecuencia y severidad del trastorno (por ejemplo, fuego en las áreas arbustivas de los ecosistemas de tipo Mediterráneo.) Las estrategias reproductivas están definidas en base a la coordination temporal y el modo de producción y reproducción. Las tácticas reproductivas son las opciones de “esfuerzo reproductivo” y distributión de energía para cada estrategia. En el chaparral, fynbos, macchia, etc., una táctica en la estrategia del brote es la distributión de energía a favor de la estructura vegetativa que tiene como función primordial el retoñar: el lignotubo.


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne James
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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