, Volume 167, Issue 4, pp 925–935

Hydraulic properties of fronds from palms of varying height and habitat

Physiological ecology - Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-011-2038-5

Cite this article as:
Renninger, H.J. & Phillips, N. Oecologia (2011) 167: 925. doi:10.1007/s00442-011-2038-5


Because palms grow in highly varying climates and reach considerable heights, they present a unique opportunity to evaluate how environment and plant size impact hydraulic function. We studied hydraulic properties of petioles from palms of varying height from three species: Iriartea deltoidea, a tropical rainforest species; Mauritia flexuosa, a tropical rainforest, swamp species; and Washingtonia robusta, a subtropical species. We measured leaf areas, petiole cross-sectional areas, specific conductivity (KS), petiole anatomical properties, vulnerability to embolism and leaf water potentials and calculated petiole Huber values and leaf-specific conductivities (KL). Leaf and petiole cross-sectional areas varied widely with height. However, hydraulic properties including Huber values, KS and KL, remained constant. The two palmate species, M. flexuosa and W. robusta, had larger Huber values than I. deltoidea, a pinnately-compound species which exhibited the highest KS. Metaxylem vessel diameters and vascular bundle densities varied with height in opposing patterns to maintain petiole conductivities. I. deltoidea and W. robusta petioles had similar P50 values (the point at which 50% of hydraulic conductivity is lost) averaged over all crown heights, but W. robusta exhibited more negative P50 values in taller palms. Comparison of P50 values with transpiring midday leaf water potentials, as well as a double-dye staining experiment in a 1-m-tall palm, suggested that a fairly significant amount of embolisms were occurring and refilled on a diurnal basis. Therefore, across palms differing widely in height and growing environments, we found convergence in water transport per unit leaf area (KL) with individuals exhibiting differing strategies for achieving this.


Arecaceae Hydraulic conductivity Vulnerability curves Vessel refilling Hydraulic limitation 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and EnvironmentBoston UniversityBostonUSA