The formation of epicormic sprouts on the boles of trees is a phenomenon that has, until recently, been poorly understood. Renewed interest in the topic in the last two decades has led to significant advances in our knowledge of the subject, especially in regard to bud anatomy, morphology and ontogeny. There exists, however, no comprehensive synthesis of results from different disciplines across genera and geographical areas; this review seeks to fill that void and provide a comprehensive framework capable of guiding future research. A tree's potential for producing epicormic branches is dependent on the number of buds that are produced on a growing shoot, the development of those buds and associated meristems over time and the factors that promote sprout formation or bud death. Based on the descriptions of a limited number of researched species, we were able to describe four different developmental strategies for epicormics based on characteristics of meristem development. Control over epicormic bud dormancy is complex, but it is clear that the traditional view of auxin-mediated dormancy release is incomplete. Genetic control over epicormic development is yet to be empirically proven. Future research should focus on clarifying these physiological and genetic controls of epicormic bud development as well as developing more robust methods for tracking epicormics in ecological and silvicultural studies.
Meier, Andrew R.; Saunders, Michael R.; Michler, Charles H. 2012. Epicormic buds in trees: a review of bud establishment, development and dormancy release. Tree Physiology. 32(5): 565-584.