Heteroblastic Development and Shade-avoidance in Response to Blue and Red Light Signals in Acacia implexa


*Corresponding author email: micf@rpb2.com (Michael A. Forster)


Information from blue (400–500 nm) and red (660–730 nm) wavelengths is used by plants to determine proximity of neighbors or actual shading. Plants undergo trait changes in order to out-compete neighbors or accommodate shading. Heteroblasty, the dramatic shift from one leaf type to another during juvenility, can be influenced by the light environment although it is unknown whether cues from blue or red (or both) are driving the developmental process. Seedlings of three populations of Acacia implexa (Mimosaceae) collected from low, medium and high rainfall habitats were grown in a factorial design of high/low blue and red light to determine how light signals affect heteroblasty and patterns of biomass allocation. Low blue light significantly delayed heteroblasty in the low rainfall population and low red light significantly delayed in the low and high rainfall populations. Low blue light increased stem elongation and decreased root biomass whereas low red light induced a strong shade-avoidance response. These results were consistent across populations although the low rainfall population showed greater trait variability in response to red light signals. We conclude that red light conveys a greater information signal than blue light that affects heteroblasty and seedling development in A. implexa.