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Timing of defoliation and its effect on bud development, starch reserves, and sap sugar concentration in sugar maple

Sapling sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) trees were defoliated artificially at 10-day intervals beginning May 27 and ending August 5, 1981. Refoliation, terminal bud and shoot development, and xylem starch and sap sugar concentration were observed in defoliated and control trees. All defoliated trees refoliated, but decreasingly with later defoliation. Defoliation caused an acceleration in the rate of primordia initiation in terminal shoot apices. After early season defoliations, the developing buds in the axils of the removed leaves abscissed, but axillary and terminal buds on the refoliated terminal shoots survived through winter. In late season defoliation, most buds of refoliated shoots did not survive and the next year’s growth depended on axillary buds formed prior to defoliation. Thus, when progressing from early to late defoliations, the next year’s shoot growth depended decreasingly on the last-formed and increasingly on the first-formed portions of the previous year’s shoot. Early October starch concentration in xylem decreased with later defoliation and was nearly absent in shoots and roots of trees defoliated in late July. There was not, however, a corresponding decrease in sap sugar concentration. Mortality occurred only in late defoliated trees and was associated with starch depletion.