Ecophysiological function of leaf ‘windows’ in Lithops species – ‘Living Stones’ that grow underground

Authors


Correspondence

Craig E. Martin, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66045, USA.

E-mail: ecophys@ku.edu

Abstract

Leaf temperatures were lower when light entry at the leaf tip window was prevented through covering the window with reflective tape, relative to leaf temperatures of plants with leaf tip windows covered with transparent tape. This was true when leaf temperatures were measured with an infrared thermometer, but not with a fine-wire thermocouple. Leaf tip windows of Lithops growing in high-rainfall regions of southern Africa were larger than the windows of plants (numerous individuals of 17 species) growing in areas with less rainfall and, thus, more annual insolation. The results of this study indicate that leaf tip windows of desert plants with an underground growth habit can allow entry of supra-optimal levels of radiant energy, thus most likely inhibiting photosynthetic activity. Consequently, the size of the leaf tip windows correlates inversely with habitat solar irradiance, minimising the probability of photoinhibition, while maximising the absorption of irradiance in cloudy, high-rainfall regions.

Ancillary