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auxin (ôkˈsĭn) [key], plant hormone that regulates the amount, type, and direction of plant growth. Auxins include both naturally occurring substances and related synthetic compounds that have similar effects. Auxins are found in all members of the plant kingdom. They are most abundantly produced in growth areas (meristem), e.g., root and shoot tips, but are also produced elsewhere, e.g., in the stems and leaves. The method of dispersal throughout the plant body is not yet fully understood. Auxins affect numerous plant processes, e.g., cell division and elongation, autumnal loss of leaves, and the formation of buds, roots, flowers, and fruit. They are also responsible for many forms of tropism. It is known that phototropism is due to the inhibition of auxins by light; the cells on that side of a plant exposed to light do not divide or grow as quickly as those on the shaded side, and thus the plant grows toward the light source. Auxins are widely used commercially to produce more vigorous growth, to promote flowering and fruiting and also root formation in plants not easily propagated by stem cuttings, to retard fruit drop, and to produce seedless varieties (e.g., of tomatoes) by parthenogenetic fruiting. Only minute amounts of auxins occur naturally, and synthetic auxins (e.g., 2,4-D) must be administered in carefully prescribed doses, since excessive concentration produces usually fatal abnormalities. However, different species of plants react to different amounts of auxins, a fact used to advantage as a method of weed control. The principal natural auxin is indoleacetic acid; other common but less frequent plant hormones include the gibberellins, lactones, and kinins.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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