Abstract The lignotuberous mallee Eucalyptus behriana F. Muell, had much lower predawn leaf water potentials (not higher than – 1.2MPa) than other eucalypts (as high as – 0.2MPa), even after extended rain. This led to the expectation that the lignotuber of E. behriana might have specific hydraulic characteristics. Keeping the soil around partially defoliated mallces for several days underwater did not raise the water status above the maximum leaf water potential observed under natural conditions. Digging a plant out and placing its roots in water after removal of the soil rapidly increased the water status to a level consistant with other eucalypts. This indicated that the major impedance to water uptake was a component of the soil rather than in the roots or in the lignotuber.
Some of the individual mallces had only two major stems or branches. One stem or branch was kept covered throughout the experiments to prevent transpiration. The other stem was subjected to a variety of different conditions in order to modify water loss from it. The transpiring branch affected the water status of the non-transpiring plant parts. Hydraulic resistances in the shoot and root/lignotuber were determined from differences in the leaf water potential of covered and uncovered branches, at high water flow rates through the plant. Resistances in branches, including the liquid phase component of the leaf, were significantly larger than in root or lignotuber.
The total plant hydraulic resistance of E. behriana was similar to that of other eucalypts, such as E. pauciflora Sieb. ex Spreng. or E. delegatensis R. T. Bak., even though its growth form was different and its natural leaf water potentials were much lower. An osmotic adjustment at the leaf level was observed in the mallee, keeping its bulk leaf turgor in the same range as compared to the other eucalypt species.