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Just what the title states.

Are there any plants/trees that exhibit a growth spurt at a definite interval after the shoot appears?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

In flowering plants (the angiosperms) there are several developmental transitions in the life of the plant. I won't list the plants, because the list includes pretty much all of them (although the magnitude in the change of developmental pace differs widely between taxa and environments).

First there is seed germination, which is controlled hormonally. Absence of germination is usually imposed by abscisic acid, whilst germination is caused at the appropriate time by gibberellic acid and ethylene (among other things; Holdsworth, Bentsink & Soppe, 2008).

Next, in many herbaceous species there is a transition between a spreading growth stage (e.g. rosette growth) and the flowering stage. The 'growth spurt' here is the differentiation and elongation of the flowering stem, and then subsequently the sudden flowering of buds. The transition is also controlled hormonally, by a variety of hormones including auxin (Zhao, 2010), gibberellic acid, ethylene (Schaller, 2012), and the long anticipated, recently confirmed florigen (Choi, 2012). Ethylene and abscisic acid then play important roles in the next developmental transition when seeds and fruits are produced and dehisced.

Small RNAs are also now being revealed to play a large role in controlling the timing of developmental, but they are upstream of the hormonal changes. In particular some key miRNAs are involved in auxin-based regulation of branching, and in embryogenesis (Nodine & Bartel, 2010), and RNA silencing is involved in the switch from rosette growth to flowering growth (reviewed in Poethig, 2009 and Baurle & Dean 2006).

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