Original Papers


, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 314-319

First online:

Effects of light regime on the growth, leaf morphology, and water relations of seedlings of two species of tropical trees

  • Ned FetcherAffiliated withDuke Phytotron, Department of Botany, Duke University
  • , Boyd R. StrainAffiliated withDuke Phytotron, Department of Botany, Duke University
  • , Steven F. OberbauerAffiliated withDuke Phytotron, Department of Botany, Duke University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


An experiment was conducted with Heliocarpus appendiculatus, a pioneer or large gap species of tropical moist forest in Costa Rica, and Dipteryx panamensis, a small gap species. Seedlings were grown in full sun, partial (80%) shade, and full (98%) shade. After one month of growth they were switched between environments and grown for two more months.

Growth in height of Heliocarpus was greatly affected by irradiance, being increased in response to full shade and decreased in full sun. Height of Dipteryx was unaffected by irradiance level. Survival of Heliocarpus seedlings was only 49% in full shade, whereas Dipteryx had 100% survival. Biomass of Heliocarpus was not significantly greater in full sun than in partial shade whereas it was for Dipteryx. The response of root: shoot ratio was similar for both species. They were lowest in full shade and highest in full sun. Heliocarpus exhibited greater changes in leaf thickness, specific leaf weight, and stomatal density than did Dipteryx. Stomatal conductance of both species was lower in full shade and full sun than in partial shade.

The results of the experiment indicate that growth of Heliocarpus is more plastic than that of Dipteryx in response to changes in irradiance. Previous environment did not affect the response to the present environment in either species. Both species responded positively to increases in irradiance.