What determines the fig tree maturity; the roots or the wood?

ottawan_z5aJuly 28, 2008

It has been said in this forum and others that as the fig tree matures, it starts fruiting relatively early, ripening early and the quality of fruit improves (if other ambient variables stay the same). My question is what determines these characteristics related to maturity (i.e. early fruiting, ripening, quality and whatever else related to plant aging); the age of the fig tree roots or the age of the trunk/branch wood or both?

Putting this question another way, say a tree has matured and is 5 years old now and has started fruiting relatively early, ripening early and good quality, but one winter it dies down to the ground but sprouts back from the roots next spring. Will the new branches starting from the ground keep the above mentioned characteristics of the mature fig tree (early fruiting, early ripening good quality etc.) or will the new branches behave like a new tree and go through the maturing phase again requiring a few more years to achieve these characteristics related to tree maturity?

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herman2_gw

Your question is too complicated to answer.
It is a fact that when tree dies to grownd,in winter then,in Spring first it grows back where it was before as height,and then fruits.
So it will be late withfruits getting ripe.
Yow will have only a handfull of fruits getting ripe till end of season ,if lucky.
Your best thing.:make sure it will not die to grownd/.
For the following years fig get back on track,if not killed again.
BR

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 10:29AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sexual maturity and to a fair degree, the stage of genetic vigor, are determined by the ontogenetic age of tree organs. We tend to think of the age of plants in the same manner we think of age in humans or animals - chronologically. We, like plants, go through several life stages - embryonic, juvenile, adolescent (intermediate in plants), and mature are stages roughly mirrored in plants. Where we vary greatly is in the way our cells age.

In animals, body cells all mature at approximately the same speed. Plants grow by consecutive divisions of cells at the growing points (meristems), so their various parts are different ages (the top of the plant is younger than the basal portion, chronologically). So, if the plant has reached a sufficient age to have mature tissues, vegetative cloning can occur from 3 of the 4 phases I listed above (embryonic excluded for the purpose of what I'm talking about). So, the age of cloned plants is not the chronological age of the parent plant, but the age (or phase if you will) of the portion of the plant from which the cutting was taken.

To further confuse you, dormant buds retain the ontogenetic age of their origin. In plants, the more times a cell has to divide to make the tissue, the older it is. This is termed the ontogenetic age and the most recently formed tissue is the oldest, ontogenetically speaking.

With this in mind, imagine this: Take a cutting from the basal part of a plant (remember, this formed first & dormant buds retain the age of the tissue at the time they were formed, so the cutting will be immature, but vigorous) and a cutting from the upper portion (this is the older tissue). Let's imagine the cuttings strike (make roots) and begin growing at the same time. The basal cutting will take much longer to flower and fruit because it is taken from a portion of the plant that remains in juvenile phase, while the other cutting will be quick to flower/fruit, because it was taken from mature tissue..

Since juvenile cuttings are more vigorous, it's best to take cuttings from the lowest parts of the plant to help insure a high % of strikes, but fastest flower/fruit can be had by taking branch end-cuttings from upper parts of the plant, at the expense of a lower strike rate. The reason basal suckers root so readily is that they arise from dormant tissues that retain a young ontogenetic age, making them juvenile and vigorous.

The answer to your hypothetical question regarding the tree that dies back to the ground is found in the fact that new growth will arise from ontogenetically juvenile tissues & will therefore be 'young', and retain the characteristics of a young plant - no matter how old (chronologically) the plant proper is.

Al

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 4:20PM
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ottawan_z5a

Thanks Al, thanks Hurman,
The nature carries so many mysteries.
Now if I can ask all my fig friends that when they send me cuttings, please send me the terminal buds from the very top of the tree so I would not have to wait too long for the fruits (& I will be very careful in keeping good ambients for rooting to maximize the chance of rooting).

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 8:07PM
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steve_digs

I just have to thank Al for that detailed explanation.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 9:33PM
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dieseler

Al thanks,
i read several times over. Thats what i like about this forum. Just a lot of great information from knowlegable people.
Martin

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 11:17AM
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steve_nj8(6a NJ)

Al,
Could you clarify your explaination on the age of various parts of the plant. See the following post:

http://www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/figs4funforum/vpost?id=3002657&pid=28973231#post28973231

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 5:21AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Steve - I think you should be able to just copy/paste my reply above as an explanation. I'm not sure what part(s) might be unclear to you or others. I think it's pretty straightforward, and I don't want to try to simplify it too much more than I already have, lest it gets misinterpreted.

Al

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 2:47PM
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arigato

Im glad this post came back up because I have been thinking about it.

Al, from what you are saying, isnt it in theory that some fig tree varieties are ontogenetically ancient, and that at some point, if we continue to take cuttings from the ends of the branches that such a fig tree variety will cease to exist due to "old age" through loss of vigor with each passing year?

Take the Adriatic fig tree, its been around since at least Pliny the elder. If people have been taking cuttings from the ends of these tress and taking more cuttings from former end branch cuttings that at some point we wont be able to root an Adriatic at all due to age?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 8:05PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Arigato
The vigor of a tree at all developmental stages is actually a genetically encoded constant - the measure of the capacity of an organism to resist strain. Vitality, on the other hand is a function of how well the organism deals with the cultural conditions it is subjected to. I think the fatal flaw in your reasoning is the supposition that vigor necessarily wanes as a tree ages, either ontogenetically or chronologically, when it remains constant.

This subject is quite complicated, and I'll go into more depth if you need me to, but perhaps it will be sufficient if I point out that the measure of a trees age can be seen in the ratio of its dynamic mass (the amount of tissue it contains that can store energy) to the volume of wood that cannot store energy. As the tree grows older, and mechanical injuries mount, along with pathogens invading through natural openings in the tree, the tree compartmentalizes the injuries and the ratio of dead wood to living tissue increases. 'Vitality' wanes, but not vigor.

Fast forward now to the actual structure of the branch ends and parts you referred to that might be utilized as cuttings. Are they not an almost exact duplication of the stem structure of a very young tree, and nearly all dynamic mass? See where I'm going? The cutting retains the genetic vigor of the parent plant, and the fact that it is nearly all dynamic mass kind of resets the clock (I hate being unscientific in the terminology, but I think it makes it very easy to understand).

Here, I'll point out the difference in the vigor between branch tip cuttings and basal cuttings. It is because the cuttings are in different phase that they exhibit different levels of vigor - not because they are different ages. In both types of cuttings, some energy will be allocated to storage and keeping the tree's systems orderly, but cuttings capable of producing flowers/fruit will be directing energy to those sinks, as well increasing biomass, while cuttings in juvenile phase will direct energy to increasing biomass only.

Does that clear things up for you?

Al

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 9:36PM
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steve_nj8(6a NJ)

Al,

I guess maybe an example might help my understanding ...

If I take a cutting from a new branch formed at the base of the tree and a cutting from the top of the tree. Both look the same in size, structure, etc. Which is "younger" and why?

And what about a sucker of the same physical characteristics?

Finally, if you could explain your use of "basal" in describing cuttings.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 5:13AM
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arigato

Hi Al,

Here is where I am confused. In your first post you said:

Sexual maturity and to a fair degree, the stage of genetic vigor, are determined by the ontogenetic age of tree organs.

Since juvenile cuttings are more vigorous, it's best to take cuttings from the lowest parts of the plant to help insure a high % of strikes,

and now you are saying:

The vigor of a tree at all developmental stages is actually a genetically encoded constant

Seems like a contradiction, and then you mentioned:

Fast forward now to the actual structure of the branch ends and parts you referred to that might be utilized as cuttings. Are they not an almost exact duplication of the stem structure of a very young tree, and nearly all dynamic mass? See where I'm going? The cutting retains the genetic vigor of the parent plant

So with regards to your statement in the second post:

The basal cutting will take much longer to flower and fruit because it is taken from a portion of the plant that remains in juvenile phase, while the other cutting will be quick to flower/fruit, because it was taken from mature tissue..

So in this case the mature tissue is where im going to take a cutting from (the end), and from your first post it sounded like a mature tree that is used for cuttings (tips) should develop a more mature tree (with less vigor) from the start but will also provide less strikes because its less vigorous. So in theory then cuttings from an ancient variety where cuttings have been taken sucessively from a prior cutting and rooted, should fruit earlier, or is it in the case of your second post where dynamic mass comes into play and offsets Vigor but not maturity?

By the way im not trying to be argumentative, Im just trying to follow the logic.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 6:31AM
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bradkairdolf(8)

Steve_nj8 said: If I take a cutting from a new branch formed at the base of the tree and a cutting from the top of the tree. Both look the same in size, structure, etc. Which is "younger" and why?

This is my understanding from reading Al's post and from other things I have read. I'll use numbers because that alway's helps me conceptualize. Please someone correct me if I'm misstating something here.

Let's say we have a tree that we've grown from seed. It starts with bud/node #1. As the tree grows, we get new nodes (we'll label them sequentially... 2, 3, 4, etc). If there is a branch point at node #25, each branch would start with a node "age" of #26 and continue from there. My understanding is that the ontogenetic age is determined by the node. So, if you take a cutting from the base, it will have a lower node number and thus be ontogenetically younger than a cutting from the top of the plant, which will have a higher node number (although I suppose if you had a short and very wide tree, a cutting from the tip of a branch at the top could have a lower node number than a cutting from the tip of a long branch at the base).

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 9:45AM
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steve_nj8(6a NJ)

Ok, now I'm with you. So how do we relate this back to the cultivation of figs? If a fig tree must be a few years old (chronologically) before it fruits, I should take cuttings from higher node numbers to hasten first fruit crop? also, is this why figs (main crop) form towards the end of a branch (higher node# and "older")?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 10:45AM
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bradkairdolf(8)

steve_nj8 said: If a fig tree must be a few years old (chronologically) before it fruits, I should take cuttings from higher node numbers to hasten first fruit crop?

I'm not sure about figs (I'm still trying to learn all I can about them) but this is true for other fruit varieties I am familiar with. This is why grafted trees typically fruit before a tree started from seed.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 11:12AM
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steve_nj8(6a NJ)

I think they are similar in this regard. Thanks for the help.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 1:08PM
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arigato

Yes thats what he is saying.

Remember it cant be from just any tip of the tree. If your cutting comes from the tip of a a sucker (from the roots of the tree near its base say) it will still be ontogenetically young despite being chronologically "old".

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 1:53PM
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steve_nj8(6a NJ)

Yup I have the same conclusion regarding the sucker. Thanks for everyone's clarifications.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 2:39PM
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supergeek_3000_yahoo_com

I have a question! I hope you can help, because I can't seem to truly find an exact answer anywhere else.

I purchased a pot grown 3 1/2 foot tall Black Mission fig tree this previous spring. It had about 5 fruits on it already...

So how old is this tree?? At what age does a fig tree begin to produce fruit? If it was from a commercial nursery, is it more than likely grown from a cutting?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 2:55PM
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ottawan_z5a

supergeek should know everything!
Anyway, the truth can only be told by the nursery. However, here is something that can be as close to the truth as possible (but not 100.1%).
My cuttings that were rooted early last spring grew to 4' tall (most)by the end of the summer. The same is true for a couple of 'air-layered' plant. So, most probably your plant was either one year old rooted from cutting or air-layered. A couple of my plants, less than a chronological year, had some fruits too. So most probably your plants are one year old.
Some fig plants can have fruit the first year (though these may not ripen in all locations). However, you should expect fruit in the second year, and more so as the plant matures.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 3:23PM
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taskk

I guess I am a supergeek in training then!
Thank you for your help!
But there is one more thing now... If it is now a one year old tree from a cutting or layer, how old are cuttings usually BEFORE they are cut to be rooted off of the main tree??

For religious reasons, I don't eat the fruit from a tree that is less than 4 years old. This is why I am asking these questions! And I love figs, so I NEED to know, from seed up, my tree's age!!!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 4:05PM
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gorgi(z7a_NJ)

>>> so I NEED to know, from seed up, my tree's age!!!

For most known old fig varieties; it has to be centuries+++
years of age...

Even the newer bred figs, they usually take much more
than 4 years to be raised, trialed, proven and released.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 4:14PM
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ottawan_z5a

takk
Chronological age of your tree starts when the cutting roots and shoots. However, as mentioned by Al above, ontogenetically it is much older than that because the tree from which your cutting was taken was most probably not from seed but rooted cutting or air-layered. Cutting or air-layering is most often not done in the first year except in exceptional cases. So absolute minimum ontogenetic age of your tree is between 2 and 3 years but could be a lot more.
But remember, if you go to heaven, all the fruit trees in your abode will be fruiting but planted fresh for you so you have to wait 4 years; don't forget.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 5:26PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It might be less confusing if you think of ontogenetic age in terms of the stage or phase of the wood - juvenile, intermediate, or mature, and the chronological age of the entire plant in terms of time passed since the cutting struck (or in other plants - a seed sprouted).

Al

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 5:49PM
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taskk

Thank you all for your help!!

And Ottawan, I will remember that!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 1:02PM
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vvenditti_cricketcommunications_com

Yesterday my wife and I were planting our 4yr old fig tree in the ground from a 25gal pot when the pot rolled onto the 4ft tall tree snapping all 6 of the 1" diameter wood at the dirt. I stuck the wood about a 6" into the ground with hopes it will take roots. Does anybody know? Please help.. thanks

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 10:04AM
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ccc1

If the wood's snapped completly off, it's just a cutting. It might or might not take... However, the roots should still be good and will sprout new shoots for you soon, so I'd plant that into the ground and cut the uper branches into many cutting that can be rooted for backup.

On the other hand if the branches just broke but is still attached, there's some hope that it can heal.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 12:03PM
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ottawan_z5a

Last year mid April I was bringing out my Bifara Fig plant from the cold storage in the basement and it fell off and one foot piece of a branch broke off like a carrot. I stuck it in a pot with soil and that was the fastest ever rooted cutting for me.
So, if you plant the cut branches properly, in pot or in ground, there is high probability of rooting. Keep it in dappled sun or shade and remove some of the bottom leaves. A clear plastic dome helps.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 11:04PM
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scion

Tapla!!!

I would like to ask you whether or not you can explain the phenomenon whereby the maturity of a fig-seedling's tissues is brought forward by many years to a fruiting maturity, simply by grafting the seedling tissue onto another mature (fig-bearing) fig tree.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 12:27AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sorry I didn't get to this sooner. I've been away. ;o)

The age of the understock has no effect on the ontogenetic age of the scion. If you graft a scion (or bud) that is sexually mature (in the reproductive phase) to a 1 year-old understock, the scion is immediately capable of flowering (fig fruits ARE flowers), though it may not, until it gets it's feet firmly under it.

Read my first post upthread for more details. It doesn't matter if you take cuttings from sexually mature wood, or graft sexually mature wood to young understock, the scion or cutting retains its ontogenetic age (stays in the sexually mature phase).

E.g.: I grow several Crataegus (hawthorns) as bonsai that I collected from the wild. I estimate some of the trees at 20 years old or older, and they haven't flowered yet. I bought several (smaller caliper than a pencil) unusual Crateagus trees from a nursery recently that were from cuttings, and they arrived in flower. It's common for Crataegus to need more than 20 years to mature (more in a container), yet the cuttings (from mature wood) arrived already blooming.

Al

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 9:56PM
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scion

Tapla,

Thank you for your reply.

However..... I have obviously not explained my question very well....

What I am asking about is the phenomenon observed where a sexually immature scion is grafted onto a sexually mature understock, and for some reason this seems to force the immature scionwood to flower and fruit years ahead of the original seedling that it was derived from..

This grafting "trick" (ie. grafting immature seedling to mature understock) is used by breeders as a means of assessing the flower/fruit characterisitcs of immature seedling varietals faster than if the seedlings were just left to fruit and flower when they matured (which often is many years later).

How can this be explained in terms of ontogenic age??

It makes no logical sense, yet it is a fact!!

Thank you for your reply in advance.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 12:02AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Beats me. You're right - it doesn't make sense.

I've spoken with Dr. Ferguson at UC Davis a few times about physiologic questions I've had. More often than not, she was able to answer my questions or set me on the right path. Why don't you see what she has to say about it & get back to us?

Her contact info:

Louise Ferguson
Extension Specialist
2037 Wickson Hall
Dept. of Plant Sciences
Mail Stop #2
Davis, California 95616-8683 Phone: 530-752-0507
Fax: 530-752-8502
Email: lferguson@ucdavis.edu

Al

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 7:14PM
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scion

Thank you Tapla for your advice.

I have sent Dr Ferguson a brief email concerning this question of mine.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 9:53PM
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scion

Tapla,

One of Dr Ferguson's colleagues (name withheld), has replied to me and given the following answer to my question...

"I have always assumed that what is happening is that the rootstock
contributes an already developed root system and/or that the
rootstock provides superior nutrient (sugar/starch) resources that
the seedling does not have to develop before it can redirect those
resources into flowering. As far as growth regulators (and balance of
the same), I don't have any specific information."

This physiological explanation could also be used to explain the overall question in this thread, namely "What determines the fig tree maturity; the roots or the wood?"....One could argue that the maturity is reached when there is enough nutrient resource and growth regulators are balanced to the point that the fig tree can "afford" to direct its energy into fig production.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 7:55PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I think the first thing we need to realize is Dr Ferguson's colleague isn't actually giving an explanation. He's making an assumption, which is almost the same as saying, "I don't know."; so logical application would forbid us from using the statement to promote any position based on the supposition, or using it for anything other than to muse. (Ockham's Razor)

You'll need to support your argument that "... maturity is reached when there is enough nutrient resource and growth regulators are balanced to the point that the fig tree can "afford" to direct its energy into fig production" from another source. I don't think this is accurate. We know that trees must pass from phase to phase before flowering/fruiting can occur. In the case I illustrated above (Crataegus), should we believe that the root system has not sufficiently formed and the tree is unable to produce enough photosynthate to produce flowers/fruit after 30 years, even though trees in mature phase are 'willing' to sacrifice vegetative growth for reproductive growth because vegetative growth is a more powerful sink? It's much more logical to reason that the shoot tips (apical meristems) simply have not passed into mature phase.

If I was forced to answer this question based on what experiments I could devise, I think I would graft two branchlets taken from roughly the same position on a branch to 2 vegetatively propagated cuttings from the same branch of the same tree (not the tree the scions came from). IOW, I would take steps to be sure the playing field was level. On one of the graftings, I would grow out the scion as the only material allowed to grow above the graft. On the other grafting, I would allow the scion to develop as a secondary branch of the tree; which is to say the rest of the tree would develop naturally - no pruning of the wood developing from the understock. I would then note which grafting fruited first.

My guess is it would be the grafting that didn't share the understock with the naturally developing tree - the one that was devoted to supporting only the grafted scion. My gut feeling is that it would more likely be because of the more rapidly advancing ontogenetic age than carbohydrate availability. I know that the o/a size of the organism also plays a significant role in how quickly shoot tips pass into mature phase, which lends credence to the idea that photosynthate/carbohydrate availability has at least some affect on flower/fruit evocation, even if not directly.

Al

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 12:20AM
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Mac415391

Al could you give a reference for the concept of the ratio of the dynamic mass (the amount of tissue it contains that can store energy) to the volume of dead mass (wood)

Mac

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 12:10PM
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