Whole Plant and Histological Analysis of Poinsettia Stem Breakage

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  • 1 Dept. of Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37901-1071

Poinsettia stem breakage reduces plant quality and marketability. The cultivar `Freedom' is susceptible to stem breakage; however, the severity of stem breakage varies with crop and year. The following four experiments were conducted to determine the factors that influence stem breakage of `Freedom' poinsettias: 1) Cutting Stem Diameter. Cuttings were graded by stem diameter into small (5.0–5.4 mm), medium (6.0–6.7 mm), and large (7.3–8.3 mm) cuttings. 2) Premature Lateral Shoot Development.Small (1- to 3-cm-long) leaves near the shoot tip of the rooted cuttings were excised to remove the lateral shoots from apical dominance prior to pinching, thus causing the lateral shoots to develop prematurely. 3) Container Spacing. The control group was spaced to 35.6 × 35.6 cm at the time of pinching. The plants in one treatment were spaced to 23.1 × 23.1 cm 25 days after pinching, and then spaced to 35.6 × 35.6 cm 11 days later. The plants in a second treatment were grown pot-to-pot for 36 days after pinch, at which time they were spaced to 35.6 × 35.6 cm. 4) Node Number. Plants were pinched to eight nodes, while the control group was pinched to 5 nodes. Tissue development in the stem crotch; i.e., the area of lateral stem attachment to the main stem, was observed by microscopic examination of paraffin-embedded samples from each experiment every 2 weeks until anthesis. Lateral shoot strength was quantified by hanging a plastic beaker from the lateral stem and gradually adding water until stem crotch failure occurred. We observed that stem strength increased as cutting stem diameter increased. Plants pinched to eight nodes produced weaker lateral shoots than those pinched to five nodes. Premature lateral shoot development and container spacing did not affect stem strength.

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