, Volume 232, Issue 1-2, pp 11-34

Foliar water supply of tall trees: evidence for mucilage-facilitated moisture uptake from the atmosphere and the impact on pressure bomb measurements

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The water supply to leaves of 25 to 60 m tall trees (including high-salinity-tolerant ones) was studied. The filling status of the xylem vessels was determined by xylem sap extraction (using jet-discharge, gravity-discharge, and centrifugation) and by 1H nuclear magnetic resonance imaging of wood pieces. Simultaneously, pressure bomb experiments were performed along the entire trunk of the trees up to a height of 57 m. Clear-cut evidence was found that the balancing pressure (Pb) values of leafy twigs were dictated by the ambient relative humidity rather than by height. Refilling of xylem vessels of apical leaves (branches) obviously mainly occurred via moisture uptake from the atmosphere. These findings could be traced back to the hydration and rehydration of mucilage layers on the leaf surfaces and/or of epistomatal mucilage plugs. Xylem vessels also contained mucilage. Mucilage formation was apparently enforced by water stress. The observed mucilage-based foliar water uptake and humidity dependency of the Pb values are at variance with the cohesion–tension theory and with the hypothesis that Pb measurements yield information about the relationships between xylem pressure gradients and height.

Correspondence: D. Zimmermann, Abteilung für Biophysikalische Chemie, Max-Planck-Institut für Biophysik, Max-von-Laue-Strasse 3, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Federal Republic of Germany.
Present address: H. Schneider, Phytosphäre, Institut für Chemie und Dynamik der Geosphäre, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Jülich, Federal Republic of Germany