• elemental defense;
  • epiphylls;
  • epiphytes;
  • leaf age;
  • leafy liverwort;
  • New Caledonia;
  • nickel hyperaccumulation;
  • plant size;
  • Psychotria douarrei;
  • serpentine soil


Plants that hyperaccumulate Ni contain > 1000 ppm (dry wt.) in their tissues. Variation of Ni content within hyperaccumulating plant species is poorly explored. Using the Ni-hyperaccumulating shrub Psychotria douarrei, we documented variation of leaf Ni levels within individual shrubs, and variation with respect to plant size and leaf age. Plant size did not correlate significantly with leaf Ni content, and leaf Ni content did not correlate significantly with soil Ni content. Older leaves contained twice as much Ni as younger leaves. Older leaves also contained greater concentrations of Ca, Fe, and Cr but less K, P, and Cu. Five elements (Zn, Pb, Co, Mn, Mg) showed no significant variation due to leaf age. We also examined the effect of leaf age on epiphyll cover, finding increased epiphyll cover on the upper surface of older leaves. The dominant leafy liverwort epiphyll had a relatively high Ni content (400 ppm), suggesting that epiphylls of Ni hyperaccumulators obtain some Ni from host leaves. Individual shrubs differed in mean leaf Ni content almost two-fold (14,900-27,700 ppm). Variation among branches within individuals also ranged widely; however, this intraplant variability was not strongly correlated with the mean leaf Ni content of an individual shrub. We concluded that Ni contents in leaves of P. douarrei vary considerably due to leaf age, among individual shrubs, and among branches within a shrub.