, Volume 86, Issue 3, pp 378-382

Freezing tolerance and avoidance in high tropical Andean plants: Is it equally represented in species with different plant height?

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Freezing tolerance and avoidance were studied in several different sized species of the tropical high Andes (4200 m) to determine whether there was a relationship between plant height and cold resistance mechanisms. Freezing injury and supercooling capacity were determined in ground level plants (i.e. cushions, small rosettes and a perennial herb), intermediate height plants (shrubs and perennial herbs) and arborescent forms (i.e. giant rosettes and small trees). All ground-level plants showed tolerance as the main mechanism of resistance to cold temperatures. Arborescent forms showed avoidance mechanisms mainly through supercooling, while intermediate plants exhibited both. Insulation mechanisms to avoid low temperatures were present in the two extreme life-forms. We suggest that a combination of freezing tolerance and avoidance by insulation is least expensive and is a more secure mechanism for high tropical mountain plants than supercooling alone.