Annals of Forest Science

, Volume 69, Issue 5, pp 543–555 | Cite as

Dating branch growth units in a tropical tree using morphological and anatomical markers: the case of Parkia velutina Benoist (Mimosoïdeae)

  • Eric NicoliniEmail author
  • Jacques Beauchêne
  • Benjamin Leudet de la Vallée
  • Julien Ruelle
  • Thomas Mangenet
  • Patrick Heuret
Original Paper



In tropical areas, studies based on the retrospective analysis of tree development have focused principally on growth ring research. The interpretation of primary growth markers is overlooked although it opens perspectives to provide long time-series on tree-crown development.


This study focused on Parkia velutina, an emergent tree of neotropical rain forests. Our objectives were (1) to characterize the phenological cycle of this species, and (2) to identify temporally interpretable morphological and anatomical markers.


We collected dominant branches in 14 adult trees and identified growth markers that limit longitudinal and radial increments. We coupled this approach with a 2-year phenological survey of 20 trees.


Leaf shedding, growth unit elongation and growth ring formation define the phenological cycle. At tree scale, this cycle is synchronous and affects all axes. At population scale, trees can be desynchronized. This cycle is annual despite some slight variability. Successive growth units and growth rings are easily identifiable.


Dating a branch by counting the number of growth units or growth rings is possible in many years with a reasonable error. Nevertheless, estimating their precise month of formation in order to study climatic influences remains difficult.


Crown development Deciduousness Dendrochronology French Guiana Growth ring Phenology Tree architecture Wood anatomy 



This study is part of the GUYAFOR project (30 075, FEDER 2007–2013), with financial support provided by European structural funds. Since 1984, forest inventories at the Paracou experimental site have also been funded by the National Forestry Fund (FFN), Ecofor, Silvolab, Fonds National de la Science and CIRAD, the institution in charge of Paracou. The authors thank the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© INRA / Springer-Verlag France 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Nicolini
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jacques Beauchêne
    • 2
  • Benjamin Leudet de la Vallée
    • 2
  • Julien Ruelle
    • 3
  • Thomas Mangenet
    • 1
    • 4
  • Patrick Heuret
    • 3
  1. 1.Unité Mixte de Recherche CIRAD-CNRS-INRA-IRD-Université Montpellier 2 “botAnique et bioinforMatique de l’Architecture des Plantes” (AMAP)KourouFrench Guiana
  2. 2.CIRAD, UMR ECOFOGKourouFrench Guiana
  3. 3.INRA, UMR ECOFOGKourouFrench Guiana
  4. 4.INRA, UMR AMAPMontpellierFrance

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