, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 421-433
Date: 19 Aug 2011

Vertical and radial profiles in tracheid characteristics along the trunk of Douglas-fir trees with implications for water transport

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Abstract

The main stems of three young Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Mirbel) Franco) trees were dissected to obtain samples of secondary xylem from internodes axially along the trunk and radially within each internode. From these samples, measurements were obtained of tracheid diameter, length, the number of inter-tracheid pits per tracheid, and the diameter of the pit membranes. In addition, samples were obtained along the trunks of three old growth trees and also a small sample of roots for measurement of tracheid diameter. A gradient was apparent in all measured anatomical characters vertically along a sequence among the outer growth rings. These gradients arose not because of a gradient vertically along the internodes, but because of the strong gradients present at each internode among growth rings out from the pith. Tracheid characteristics were correlated: wider and longer tracheids had more numerous pits and wider pits, such that total pit area was about 6% of tracheid wall area independent of tracheid size. A stem model combining growth rings in parallel and internodes in series allowed for estimates of whole trunk conductance as a function of tree age. Conductance of the stem (xylem area specific conductivity) declined during the early growth of the trees, but appeared to approach a stable value as the trees aged.

Communicated by S. Mayr.