Xylem vessel anatomy was examined in tissues surrounding the graft union of sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) scion (stem) and nondwarfing, semi-dwarfing, or dwarfing rootstock (root) combinations, to characterize potential changes in anatomical features during the initial stages of graft union formation. Vessel element length, frequency, diameter, lumen area (LAV), and mean vessel hydraulic diameter (VDh) were examined in `Rainier' (P. avium) scion wood grafted onto nondwarfing `Colt' (P. pseudocerasus L. × P. avium) or `F 12/1' (P. avium) rootstock and semi-dwarfing `Gisela 6' [`Gi 6' (P. cerasus L. × P. canescens L.)], or dwarfing `Gisela 5' [`Gi 5' (P. cerasus × P. canescens)] rootstock systems in: heterograft combinations (commercial scion-rootstock combinations); homografts (scion and rootstock are the same genetic material); and reciprocal heterografts (rootstock tissue grafted onto scion tissue). Vessel element length was not affected by rootstock, but vessel frequency and lumen area in graft union tissues were smaller in `Rainier'/`Gi 5' (dwarfing combination) than in `Rainier'/`Colt' (nondwarfing combination). The heterograft combination of `Rainier'/`Gi 5' had smaller scion LAV, lower VDh and narrower vessels than homograft or reciprocal heterograft combinations. As callus differentiated into vascular elements, xylem rays in `Rainer'/`Gi 5' tended to develop at an acute angle to the longitudinal axis of the tree and there was an increase in nonfunctional phloem in `Rainer'/`Gi 5' compared to `Rainer'/`F 12/1'. Collectively, the data provides further evidence that a combination of smaller and fewer vessels in the scion and graft union, as well as irregular vessel orientations in the vascular tissue within dwarfing combinations could contribute to hydraulic resistance in the graft union resulting in reduced scion growth (dwarfing).
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