Dormancy and Acclimation

Curt R. Rom

Dormancy is a condition in which plants or plant parts are alive but not growing. Dormant plants—also called quiescent, latent, asleep, or suspended—are not visibly developing, and there is no visible external activity. Deciduous fruit trees are considered dormant during the winter season after leaf fall and during other periods of environmental stress. Tissues that express dormancy are apical and root meristems, lateral and axillary meristems, and cambial and cork meristems. Organs that become dormant are buds, root tips, and seeds. Dormancy is common in all temperate fruit trees, as may be inferred because of seasonal environmental variations. A plant physiologically changes, or acclimates, in response to its environment to ensure its continued existence.

Fruit trees express dormancy at different times of year as a survival tool to prevent growth during unfavorable conditions. For instance, when the temperature is too hot or too cold, tissues or organs may become dormant. Additionally, environmental factors such as light or water stress, either in excess or limiting, may cause plant parts to become dormant. Then, when more favorable conditions prevail, tissues are released from dormancy and begin growth, as indicated by cell division and expansion. Thus, plant parts, whole plants, or seeds may survive from season to season, flourishing in conditions favorable for growth.

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