• cell walls;
  • grasses;
  • leaf elongation;
  • polysaccharides;
  • relative growth rate


Differences in the relative growth rules of the inherently slow-growing Deschampsia flexuosa L. and the inherently fast-growing Holcus lanatus L. were reflected in cell wall synthesis in the elongation zone of the leaves. Leaf elongation rates depended on the size of the plant and ranged from 6 to 14 mm d−1 in Deschampsia and from 12 to 42 mm d−1 in Holcus. Anatomical data showed that the epidermis and vascular tissue are the important tissues controlling leaf extension. The cell wall polysaccharides of fully expanded leaves of the two species were identical in sugar composition. Enzymatic hydrolysis of polymeric sugars in the cell walls of the sheath and the lamina gave glucose (85%), arabinose (3.5%), fucose (0.5%), xylose (5.0%), mannose (0.5%), galaclose (0.8%) and galacturonic acid (3–4%). This composition applied throughout the blade and the sheath and did not change with ageing. Polysaccharides in the meristems of the two species showed identical sugar compositions with 51–55% glucose, 13–15% galactoronic acid and 13–14% arabinose as the main components. The extension zone was marked by a gradual increase of driselase-digestable polymers (per mm tissue) and a concurrent shift in sugar composition. The massive increase of glucose in the cell wall polymers of the elongation zone is probably caused by cellulose synthesis. The rate of synthesis of cell wall polysaccharides in Holcus was twice as high as that in Deschampsia. The slower-growing Deschampsia has more ferulic acid esterified with cell walls, which might contribute to the slowing of leaf growth. Lignin is not significantly deposited until growth has essentially ceased and is not responsible for the difference in growth rate.