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Keywords:

  • Hydathode;
  • Lathraea;
  • leaf;
  • parasitic plant;
  • Rhinanthus;
  • transpiration;
  • xylem

Abstract

The Rhinanthoid clade of the family Orobanchaceae comprises plants displaying a hemiparasitic or holoparasitic strategy of resource acquisition. Some of its species (mainly Rhinanthus spp.) are often used as models for studies of hemiparasite physiology. Although there is a well-developed concept covering their physiological processes, most recent studies have neglected the existence of hydathode trichomes present on leaves of these hemiparasitic plants. As a first step for the proposed integration of these structures in the theory of physiological processes of the hemiparasites, we described the outer micromorphology and ultrastructure of the hydathode trichomes on leaves of hemiparasitic Rhinanthus alectorolophus and Odontites vernus with scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM and TEM, respectively). The TEM inspections of both types of trichome revealed typical ultrastructural features: labyrinthine cell wall, high content of cytoplasm in cells with numerous mitochondria and presence of plasmodesmata. All these features indicate high metabolic activity complying with their function as glandular trichomes actively secreting water. The active secretion of water by the hydathode trichomes (evidence for which is summarised here) also presents a possible mechanism explaining results of previous gas exchange measurements detecting high dark respiration and transpiration rates and a tight inter-correlation between them in hemiparasitic Orobanchaceae. In addition, this process is hypothesised to have allowed multiple evolutionary transitions from facultative to obligate hemiparasitism and unique xylem-feeding holoparasitism of Lathraea with a long-lived underground stage featuring a rhizome covered by scales of leaf origin.