Contributed by Variedades de Olivo

Like other plants, the olive tree is gov­erned by a devel­op­ment cycle bound to the sea­sons of the year. Thus, hav­ing spent the win­ter in a deep state of lethargy, it is in the spring, sum­mer and autumn that it under­goes the most stages. Each and every one of which will depend on how the buds have evolved.

While some of the buds sprout­ing from the olive tree will end up turn­ing into blos­soms that sub­se­quently give shape to the fruit, oth­ers will move towards the future becom­ing, first shoots and then branches. These branches, in turn, will gen­er­ate new buds in such a way that this cycle is always guar­an­teed.

This and other sub­se­quent cycles are known through­out the agronomous world as phe­no­log­i­cal stages and, as we have seen, the for­mer cor­re­sponds to bud­ding.

In this process, the ori­gin of every­thing is con­cen­trated in the buds which, in real­ity, pro­tect  a latent reduced ver­sion of what will be the upper parts of the tree in the future.

In the case of the olive tree, these buds are located in the leaf axil, although they may also be found hid­den in the old­est wood. From the moment they start to show their first signs of activ­ity, they may evolve in two dif­fer­ent direc­tions. Thus, some end up blos­som­ing into a clus­ter of flow­ers while oth­ers give life to a new shoot with leaves. Bearing this dif­fer­ence in mind, we say there are flower buds and veg­e­ta­tive buds.

The visual dif­fer­ences between the two are barely dis­cernible when closed, and they do not become clear when observ­ing their loca­tion on the tree either, as both types choose a secluded place to grow, exactly where the leaf joins its twig.

The future of these buds will depend on the var­i­ous bio­chem­i­cal mech­a­nisms that take place just before the arrival of win­ter, which we will analyse in more depth in future edi­tions.

The bud­ding begins

In both cases, the arrival of spring brings a grad­ual increase in the tem­per­a­tures, as well as more day­light hours. This trig­gers the begin­ning of the bud­ding process in the tree. A return to life, now that the win­ter has been sur­passed.

Logically, in the warmer regions, this phe­nom­e­non takes place ear­lier than in the cold zones. In Spain, this cli­mate dif­fer­ence may be of up to two months, with the first olive groves bud­ding in early March and the lat­est in late April.

When this process begins, the buds open the new leaves as these stretch over the outer edge, thus giv­ing rise to the growth of a new branch. It should be clear in this expla­na­tion that the trees grow from their shoots and not, as peo­ple pop­u­larly believe, by “stretch­ing” their branches or their trunk.

This growth will be faster or slower depend­ing on con­di­tions such as the avail­abil­ity of water and light, as well as the nutri­tional and san­i­tary con­di­tions. This is why it is vitally impor­tant for the growth to be suf­fi­cient, as on these new branches other leaves will develop and other new buds, which will allow the olive tree to blos­som the fol­low­ing year and which will, there­fore, pro­vide a fruit­ful future har­vest.

In this phase, the growth pat­tern of the buds is always the same: two leaves that emerge in oppo­site direc­tions on each intern­ode, rotat­ing their 90º angle on the fol­low­ing intern­ode.

Chromatic vari­ety as an indi­ca­tor of change

On the other hand, we have all seen that the olive trees do not cast off their leaves in the win­ter. On the con­trary, these grad­u­ally and nat­u­rally fall when they turn yel­low on reach­ing the age of two or three years old. This phe­nom­e­non is more eas­ily seen in the spring­time, just when enough new leaves have appeared.

Budding changes the appear­ance of these trees due to the sap that is pushed onto their leaves by the roots. This is a clear sign of life that dark­ens or light­ens the leaves as a pre­lude to its next stage: blos­som­ing.

Olivarama arti­cles also appear in Olivarama mag­a­zine and are not edited by Olive Oil Times.


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