The Response of Petioles of Glechoma hederacea to a Dynamic Light Climate


Department of Plant Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Utrecht University P. O. Box 80084 3508 TB Utrecht The Netherlands E-mail: Section Editor: R. Aerts


Abstract: In herbaceous vegetation patterns of light distribution may change over time. Prostrate plants growing in such a dynamic light environment may benefit from petioles that respond plastically to changing light conditions. In an experiment, the response of petioles of Glechoma hederacea to changing light conditions was analyzed. Treatments included continuous shade, continuous high light, a shift from shade to high light and from high light to shade when the plants had formed 10 ramets. In all four treatments, even petioles that had apparently ceased growing, were still able to elongate slightly but the extent of elongation decreased with the age of the petiole. In the oldest petioles relative extension rates were higher in shade than in high light. In plants that were exposed to full daylight in the second half of the experiment, even newly formed petioles were longer than those in plants that grew in full daylight continuously though they had elongated over a shorter period. In plants that were shaded in the second half of the experiment, only the youngest 4 to 5 petioles reached lengths similar to that in continuous shade. This mechanism may enable plants to keep young (productive) leaves in the upper layers of the canopy while other less productive leaves remain at lower levels of the vegetation.