In botany sympodial growth is a specialized lateral growth pattern in which the apical meristem is terminated and growth is continued by a lateral meristem, which repeats the process. The apical meristem may be consumed to make an inflorescence or other determinate structure, or it may be aborted. The result is that the stem, which may appear to be continuous, is in fact derived from the meristems of multiple lateral branches, rather than a monopodial plant whose stems derive from one meristem only.
An example is the orchid Laelia (see illustration). The apical meristem of the rhizome forms an ascendent swollen stem called a pseudobulb, and the apical meristem is consumed in a terminal inflorescence. Continued growth occurs in the rhizome, where a lateral meristem takes over to form another pseudobulb and repeat the process. This process is evident in the jointed appearance of the rhizome, where each segment is the product of an individual meristem, but the sympodial nature of a stem is not always clearly visible.
- Simpson, M. G. 2006. Plant Systematics. Elsevier Academic Press. Pg. 355.