Hydraulic design of leaves: insights from rehydration kinetics


M. A. Zwieniecki. Fax: 617 496 5458; e-mail: mzwienie@oeb.harvard.edu


We examined the leaf hydraulic design in 10 species based on their rehydration kinetics. In all cases, a biphasic response described the temporal pattern of water uptake, with time constants of ∼30 to 800 s and ∼800 to 8000 s. The time constants of the fast phase were significantly shorter in the six angiosperms (30 to 110 s) compared with the two single-veined conifer species (>400 s) examined, while the two multi-veined gymnosperm species, Gnetum gnemon and Ginkgo biloba, had time constants for the fast phase of ∼150 s. Among angiosperm species, the fast phase constituted 50–90% of the total water absorbed, whereas in gymnosperms 70–90% of the water uptake could be assigned to the slow phase. In the four gymnosperms, the relative water uptake corresponding to the fast phase matched to a good degree the relative volume of the venation and bundle sheath extension; whereas in the angiosperm species, the relatively larger water influx during the fast phase was similar in relative volume to the combined venation, bundle sheath extension, epidermis and (in four species) the spongy mesophyll. This suggests a general trend from a design in which the epidermis is weakly connected to the veins (all four gymnosperms), to a design with good hydraulic connection between epidermis and veins that largely bypasses the mesophyll (four of six angiosperms), to a design in which almost the entire leaf appears to function as a single pool.