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Xylem' Structure and Water Conduction in Conifer Trees, Dicot Trees, and Llanas

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Coniferous trees, dicotyledonous trees, and dicotyledonous lianas (woody vines) form interesting morphological contrasts in their xylem structure and function. Lianas have among the largest (up to 8 metres or more) and widest (up to 500 µm) vessels in the plant kingdom. In conifers the water transport occurs through tracheids, which are relatively inefficient in transport. We can compare disparate growth forms in terms of leaf-specific. conductivity (LSC), which is hydraulic conductivity per surface area of leaves supplied by a stem. LSC is inversely proportional to localised pressure potential gradients. LSC is equal to the Huber value (sapwood area per leaf area supplied) times the specific conductivity (hydraulic conductivity per sapwood area). Lianas are similar to dicot trees and conifers in having hydraulic constrictions (low LSCs) at branch junctions. However, lianas generally have greater LSCs and specific conductivities but lower Huber values than do conifers. Dicot trees are intermediate in these values. The narrow but efficient stems of lianas are possible partly because lianas are not self-supporting; the mechanical requirements are reduced. Secondly, the wide and efficient vessels of lianas remain conductive for much longer than might be expected (two to several years, versus one year for similar wide vessels in dicots). Based upon experiments with glass capillary tubes and with living stem tissue, larger vessels are more susceptible to freezinginduced embolism than are small ones. However, in lianas, root pressures might serve to refill cavitated vessels on a daily or seasonal basis.


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