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The endoparasite Pilostyles ulei (Apodanthaceae – Cucurbitales) influences wood structure in three host species of Mimosa

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Pilostyles species (Apodanthaceae) are endoparasites in stems of the plant family Fabaceae. The body comprises masses of parenchyma in the host bark and cortex, with sinkers, comprising groups of twisted tracheal elements surrounded by parenchyma that enter the secondary xylem of the host plant. Here we report for the first time the effects of Pilostyles parasitism on host secondary xylem. We obtained healthy and parasitized stems from Mimosa foliolosa, M. maguirei and M. setosa and compared vessel element length, fiber length, vessel diameter and vessel frequency, measured through digital imaging. Also, tree height and girth were compared between healthy and parasitized M. setosa. When parasitized, plant size, vessel diameter, vessel element length and fiber length are all less than in healthy plants. Also, vessel frequency is greater and vessels are narrower in parasitized stems. These responses to parasitism are similar to those observed in stressed plants. Thus, hosts respond to the parasite by changing its wood micromorphology in favour of increased hydraulic safety.


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