New Forests

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Cone structure and seed development in grafted witches’ broom and normal crown clones from the same trees of Pinus sibirica

  • Olga Polyakova
  • Sergei Goroshkevich
  • Evgeniya ZhukEmail author


Mutational witches’ broom represents a fragment of the tree crown with slower shoot growth, abnormally dense branching, decreased apical dominance and often with abundant cone-bearing compared with a normal crown. Mutational witches’ broom is a major source for the majority of ornamental dwarf conifer cultivars with abundant branching. Pinus sibirica is also capable of forming mutational witches’ brooms. The species has valuable edible seeds, and therefore, dwarf cultivars with abundant cone-bearing could be used to establish cone crop plantations. To reveal how the mutation causing witches’ broom affects the quality of cones and seeds, we carried out a comparative analysis of cone size, cone structure and seed quality in six grafted clones with witches’ broom and normal clones from the same trees, determining seed losses at the different developmental stages. Cones from mutant clones had 1.5–2.9 times smaller size than normal clones. Cones from 50% of the normal clones were more elongated in shape. In mutant clones, the numbers of fertile scales and ovules were 1.4 times lower than in normal clones. Seeds had a smaller size in all mutant clones, and seed quality and seed efficiency were lower in two-thirds of the clones compared with normal clones. Seed losses were observed at different developmental stages, but there were significantly more losses before pollination and during embryo development in mutants. Therefore, the majority of mutants had small cones and therefore a rather ornamental value because of reduced seed efficiency and small seeds. At the same time, individual mutant clones had a seed efficiency and the number of filled seeds close to those of normal clones. They could therefore be promising as cone-bearing cultivars for the commercial production of pine kernel.


Witches’ broom Female cones Pinus sibirica Du Tour Somatic mutation, crop plantation 



This work was partly supported by Russian Foundation for Basic Research [Grant No. 16-04-00440-a] and Russian Academy of Sciences (Program of basic research in state academies, Theme 52.2.6).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Monitoring of Climatic and Ecological SystemsRussian Academy of Sciences, Siberian BranchTomskRussia
  2. 2.Tomsk State UniversityTomskRussia

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