Functional interaction between leaf trichomes, leaf wettability and the optical properties of water droplets


W. K. Smith, Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071, U.S.A.


Abstract. Because CO2 diffuses 10000 times more slowly through water than air, there may be strong selective pressure for increased water repellency in terrestrial plant leaves. In the present study, leaf trichomes appeared to have a strong influence on leaf water repellency (i.e. degree of water droplet formation on the leaf surface) as well as the retention of droplets on the leaf. Based upon evaluation of 38 plant species from 21 families, we found that leaves with trichomes were more water repellent, especially where trichome density was greater than 25mm2. However, droplet repellency and retention were both high in some species where trichomes entrapped droplets. Finally, the lensing effects of water droplets on leaf surfaces increased incident sunlight by over 20-fold directly beneath individual droplets. These results may have important implications for such processes as stomatal function, whole leaf photosynthesis, and transpiration for a large variety of plant species.