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Development and growth form of a neotropical liana Croton nuntians: The effect of light and mode of attachment on the biomechanics of the stem

Journal Article

Gallenmiller F; Rowe N; Speck T

‚Äč

2004

Journal of Plant Growth Regulation

23

83-97

The neotropical liana Croton nuntians (Euphorbiaceae) can occur in a variety of different growth habits. Juvenile freestanding plants are mechanically stable without support and resemble morphologically young trees or shrubs whereas adult plants are climbers. Ontogenetic variation of bending and torsion properties of different growth phases are analyzed by measurements of flexural stiffness structural bending modulus torsional stiffness and structural torsional modulus. Mechanical and anatomical data show two fundamentally different patterns for juvenile freestanding and adult climbing plants. In freestanding plants mechanical properties and the contribution of cortex wood and pith to the stem cross-section vary only little during ontogeny as is typical for semi-self-supporting plants. In contrast climbing plants become significantly more flexible during ontogeny as is characteristic for lianas. This is accompanied by a transition to the formation of a less dense wood type with large diameter vessels and an increasing contribution of flexible tissues (less dense wood and cortex) to the cross-sectional area and the axial second moment of area of the stems. Depending on the environmental conditions freestanding plants can differ considerably in their appearance due to differences in branching system or stem taper. Therefore the influence of light quantity measured as percentage of canopy opening on the mechanical properties and the stem anatomy was tested. Freestanding plants grown with strong shade are significantly more stiff in bending compared with plants grown with a moderate light environment.

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The Liana Ecology Project is supported by Marquette University and funded in part by the National Science Foundation.