Original Papers


, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 279-284

First online:

Comparative water use and nitrogen relationships in a mistletoe and its host

  • James R. EhleringerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Utah
  • , Craig S. CookAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Utah
  • , Larry L. TieszenAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Augustana College

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The impact of the xylem-tapping mistletoe Phoradendron juniperinum on the nitrogen and water relations of its host Juniperus osteosperma was investigated under natural field conditions. Leaf conductance, leaf water potential, and leaf Kjeldahl nitrogen contents were followed through the growing season on mistletoes, infected junipers (separating infected from uninfected stems) and uninfected junipers. Infected trees experienced lower leaf water potentials than uninfected trees and also had lower leaf conductances and lower leaf nitrogen contents. Infected juniper stems had higher conductances than uninfected stems. Mistletoes had higher leaf nitrogen contents than their hosts and much of this nitrogen appeared as arginine, a potential nitrogen storage compound. Photosynthetic rates (per unit leaf area) were significantly higher in junipers than in the mistletoe, and higher in the uninfected than infected junipers. Water use efficiencies as estimated by carbon isotope ratios were significantly lower in mistletoes than in their hosts. Increased mistletoe infestation appeared to increase absolute water use efficiency of both host and mistletoe.