Last updated: September 26, 2018

What Does Branching Mean?

In botany, a branch is a woody part of a tree or plant that connects to its trunk. A more scientific term for a branch is a rambus. There are two types of branches; larger branches are known as boughs and smaller branches are called twigs. Twigs can stem off boughs, while boughs refers to the entire branch from trunk to tip.

Branching refers to the growth pattern of said branches, or, plant morphology. Branches can grow horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, but the majority of trees have upwardly diagonal branches.

Virtually every plant displays some sort of branching. More common in smaller plants, branching was first used by Alexander Von Humboldt in 1808 as a method of classification.

The botanist identified no less than 19 different types of branching, namely pseudomonopodial, anistomous, isotomous, and dichotomous branching. Modern botanists also differentiate between lateral, axillary, sympodial, monopodial, or racemose branching. These terms all relate to the size, vigor, growth pattern, and amount of branches/branching a plant has.


Maximum Yield Explains Branching

In angiosperms, botanists differentiate between two main modes of branching: sympodial and monodial.

Monodial branching is when the terminal bud grows and develops into a central leader shoot. In such cases, the lateral branches tend to play a subordinate role, such as beech trees. On the other hand, plants such as the Joshua tree display a symbodial branching system, whereby the terminal bud ceases to develop and grow at some point. This is namely because of the apparition of new axillary buds and terminal flowers, which provide new leader shoots.

Isotomous branching is when branches are of equal size and vigor and diverge at similar angles from the main axis. Anistomous branching occurs when branches are of unequal size/vigor, and child branches grow at different angles from main axis. Pseudomonopodial branching is a version of anisotomous branching, in which the child branches are different in both size/vigor and angle from the main axis. This is not the growth pattern of woody trees, which are mainly monopodial branchers.


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