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Different water relations between flowering and leaf periods: a case study in flower-before-leaf-emergence Magnolia species

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/08/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Functional Plant Biology
Issue number11
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)1098-1110
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The differing water relations between flowers and leaves on a plant reflect the lack of co-ordination between reproductive and vegetative organs during the evolution of angiosperm species. The amount of water that flowers consume has been reported to vary across species, and compared with studies of leaves, accurate measurements of flower water relations at the branch level are lacking. Further, the mechanisms by which flowers regulate their hydraulic function and structure to maintain water balance remain unclear. To explore the ecophysiological basis underpinning the differences between flowers and leaves, we measured hydraulic and morphological traits and monitored sap flow in flowers and leaves from the same branches of two Magnoliaceae species that flower before leaf emergence (Magnolia denudata Desr. and Magnolia soulangeana Soul.-Bod.). Sap flux density (J(S)) of flowers was 22% and 55% of that predicted for leaves in M. denudata and M. soulangeana respectively. J(S) of flowers commenced before predawn and ceased early in the afternoon, reflecting their night-time flowering pattern and a dramatic decrease of J(S) with increasing vapour pressure deficit (D) under the high light of midday. Relative to leaves, tepals were thicker and more hydrated, and had bigger but scarcer stomata, leading to lower stomatal conductance (g(s)) and transpiration rate (E), less negative water potential ((tepal)) and lower hydraulic conductance. This study revealed different hydraulic patterns in the flowers and leaves of the two Magnolia species. Although flowers consumed less than half the water that leaves did, they used different strategies to maintain sufficiently high to sustain hydraulic safety. Magnolia flowers retained more hydrated tepals by exhibiting less water loss than leaves via lower hydraulic conductance. In contrast, Magnolia leaves maintained high transpiration rates through efficient stomatal responses to environmental changes compared with flowers.