, Volume 111, Issue 4, pp 452-459

Variation in growth form in relation to spectral light quality (red/far-red ratio) in Plantago lanceolata L. in sun and shade populations

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Plants from a sun and shade population were grown in two environments differing in the ratio of red to far-red light (R/FR ratio). A low R/FR ratio, simulating vegetation shade, promoted the formation of long, upright-growing leaves and allocation towards shoot growth, whereas a high R/FR ratio had the opposite effects. The increase in plant height under the low R/FR ratio was accompanied by a reduction in the number of leaves. Population differences in growth form resembled the differences between plants grown in different light environments: plants from the shade population had rosettes with long erect leaves, whereas plants from the sun population formed prostrate rosettes with short leaves. Plants from the shade population were more responsive to the R/FR ratio than plants from the sun population: the increases in leaf length, plant height, and leaf area ratio under a low R/FR ratio were larger in the shade population. However, differences in plasticity were small compared to the population difference in growth form itself. We argue that plants do not respond optimally to shading and that developmental constraints might have limited the evolution of an optimal response.

Received: 8 December 1996 / Accepted: 31 March 1997