Desiccation increases sucrose levels in Ramonda and Haberlea, two genera of resurrection plants in the Gesneriaceae


T. Boller (corresponding author, e-mail


A few genera of angiosperms are known as ‘resurrection plants’ since their leaves withstand complete desiccation. In many organisms, including some resurrection plants, desiccation tolerance is associated with the accumulation of special carbohydrates. We examined whether this is also true for the two European angiosperm genera of resurrection plants, Ramonda and Haberlea in the Gesneriaceae. Using gas chromatography, non-structural carbohydrates were determined as a percentage of the dry weight in leaves of Ramonda nathaliae subjected to various desiccation regimes. Sucrose was the predominant soluble carbohydrate in all samples, and its level steadily increased from 2 to 10% during desiccation. Starch amounted to ca 2% in control leaves and disappeared completely within 8 days of desiccation. Considerable amounts (1–2.5%) of raffinose and smaller amounts of its precursor galactinol (1-a-galactosyl-myo-inositol) were present in control leaves; these carbohydrates showed only minor changes upon desiccation. Similar results were obtained when excised leaves of Ramonda nathaliae, Ramonda myconi and Haberlea rhodopensis were subjected to desiccation. These data indicate that sucrose accumulation is connected to desiccation tolerance in Gesneriaceae; the presence of raffinose may be a pre-adaptation since this sugar prevents crystallization of sucrose during drying.