Do trees have genetically encoded to stop growing at some height, to keep dividing the cells only to a certain amount, or to pump nutritions only till it's advantageous because they've already overgrown their companions? Or do they just keep growing till they can?

I was inspired by this article, according to which the height limit is about 130 m. Since if the second one was true, it would be possible to grow a 130 m tall tree with enough nutritions.

Also, the evolution of trees wouldn't mean to getting more genes of height, but to use nutrients more efficiently.

  • $\begingroup$ mildly related: Why is it beneficial for trees to grow tall? $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    May 19, 2016 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ 'Trees' are widely different - are you asking about Redwoods in particular? Also note that the paper is specifically referring to the physiology of Sequoia sempervirens, and tradeoffs in this species, not trees in general. Most tree species cannot grow to be more than 100m, no matter how much nutrients you dump on them. $\endgroup$ May 20, 2016 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I'm asking about trees in general. $\endgroup$
    – Probably
    May 20, 2016 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ Plants can go through temporary dormant ("perennating") phases i.e. meristem activity suppressed. As well; a major line of plant cells after certain stage of development, become "permanent tissue" (parenchyma, collenchyma etc.)... i.e. doesn't divide anymore (until they are dedifferentiated by any factor, human or natural). Sclerenchyma, the dead tissue, is a result of programmed-cell-death. So, certainly plants have some genetic machinery to pause or stop growth. $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2016 at 6:35

1 Answer 1


The answer I got from Jan Kolář of Charles University:

Traits of trees like height and mass are a result of the genes and environment. The determinative factor for the studied plants and animals is a big amount of various genes. When we get to know all the functions of all the genes, we should be able to determine the most important ones but for now we know just that gibberelin and auxin are very important for the growth of the tree, so we'll be looking for those genes which control the level of those hormones.

In case of trees, a big part of the height they can grow are utterly mechanical factors. The stem and the main branches have to be enough strong not to break with their own weight and the roots have to be enough firmly rooted in the soil. This limit is determined mainly by genes that control the grow of the cell walls, their mechanical resistance etc.

  • $\begingroup$ also at a certain height it isn't prossible anymore for the tree to transport the water to the top of it $\endgroup$
    – KingBoomie
    Oct 5, 2016 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ @RickBeeloo If you talk about the atmospheric pressure limit I disagree $\endgroup$
    – Probably
    Nov 6, 2016 at 13:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Take a look at this article: nature.com/nature/journal/v428/n6985/full/nature02417.html @Probably $\endgroup$
    – KingBoomie
    Nov 6, 2016 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @RickBeeloo Thanks, what's the principle behind this "constrains" (if you have it avaiable)? $\endgroup$
    – Probably
    Nov 7, 2016 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean with "this constrains" which constrains? $\endgroup$
    – KingBoomie
    Nov 7, 2016 at 17:28

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