, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 755-767

Stem and wood allometric relationships in Cacteae (Cactaceae)

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Abstract

Allometric relationships in organisms are considered a universal phenomenon. A positive scaling has been reported between stem size and cellular size of tracheary elements in wood of different vascular plants, but few studies have been carried out in slow-growing succulent plants. The aim of this study was to evaluate if a relationship exists between size, growth form and wood cell size among individual species of Cacteae. Forty-four species belonging to 16 genera of the tribe Cacteae with differing growth forms and sizes were studied. When analyzing plant size, we found a positive allometric scaling and the larger-sized species showing a higher percentage of succulent tissue and less accumulation of wood tissue. The positive scaling found between plant size (height and diameter) and vessel elements and fiber length support the universality of the allometric relationship proposed for other vascular plants with non-succulent stems. Notably, wide-band tracheids do not scale with plant size or growth form. Succulence associated with narrow vessel elements with distinctive helical secondary walls and wide-band tracheids suggest they are the key adaptations to tolerate drought and provide support to the stems of most taxa in Cacteae. Fibers do not have the primary role of giving mechanical support; therefore, we assume the scarce fibers in clusters represent reaction wood that, along with the fundamental tissue, maintains the vertical position and shape of those species growing in rocky cracks. Our results with species having short succulent stems support the universal theory of positive allometric scaling of vascular plants.

Communicated by S. Mayr.