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How Predictive are Computer Simulations of Tree Architecture?

Botanical trees display some of the most complex structural patterns in plants. The concept of tree architectural model by Hallé, Oldeman, and Tomlinson has catalyzed a variety of approaches to the problem of form, reviewed here. Computer simulations of three-dimensional structure have become increasingly important but vary in their ability to test hypotheses about optimization and to predict mature tree form. The longevity of trees and the significant role of phenotypic plasticity limit the predictability of present simulations. Future promising directions in tree architecture research will make use of better empirical models for branching pattern and leaf placement, correlation of architectural parameters with ecological factors, and more quantitative descriptions of recent holistic concepts of architecture: metamorphosis and patterns of organization.