• biomechanics;
  • cuticular membrane;
  • cutan;
  • cutin;
  • growth dependence;
  • mangrove;
  • polysaccharide;
  • wax


Chemical and mechanical properties of the leaf cuticular membranes (CMs) of a mangrove, Sonneratia alba J. Smith, were analysed at various leaf development stages to evaluate their tolerance to environmental stress. Our analyses demonstrate that the CMs from leaves of S. alba at different growth stages are generally rich in wax (21.5–25.7%) and cutin (52.4–63.4%) which rapidly accumulate at the early stages of leaf growth, while cutan (4.3–10.3%) and polysaccharide (2.3–7.7%) continuously accumulate throughout growth. Immature CMs are physically weak and highly viscoelastic. However, CMs become strengthened and stiffened during leaf expansion and maturation (by factors of about 1.5 and 2.4, respectively) while their flexibility decreases (68–83% decrease). Finally, the CMs lose their strength at the senescent stage (30–43% decreasement). Correlation analysis between chemical composition and mechanical properties revealed that the cutin matrix is mainly responsible for the high viscoelastic properties of CMs, while wax, cutan and polysaccharide contributed to their elasticity. Wax also affected the strength of the CMs, whereas cutan and polysaccharide showed rigidizing effect. Rapid accumulation of wax and cutin in the CMs after bud burst followed by the mechanical supports of cutan and polysaccharide in an isolateral manner contributed to the remarkable environmental tolerance of S. alba.