, Volume 82, Issue 2, pp 180–186 | Cite as

Ecophysiological consequences of non-random leaf orientation in the prairie compass plant, Silphium laciniatum

  • Thomas W. Jurik
  • Hanzhong Zhang
  • John M. Pleasants
Original Papers


The prairie compass plant (Silphium laciniatum L.) has vertical leaves that are characteristically oriented in a north-south plane (i.e., the flat surfaces of the lamina face east and west). We explored the consequences of this orientation by determining basic photosynthetic and water use characteristics in response to environmental factors and by determining total daily photosynthesis and water use of leaves held in different orientations. Average maximum CO2 exchange rate (CER) of leaves near Ames, IA was constant at 22 micromol m−2 s−1 from May through August and then declined. CER did not exhibit a distinct lightsaturation point. CER at photon flux densities near full sunlight was constant from 22 to 35°C leaf temperature but declined at higher temperatures. However, leaf temperatures rarely exceed 35°C during the growing season. There was no change in the pattern of response of CER to temperature over the growing season. We constrained leaves to face east-west (EW,=natural), to face north-south (NS), or to be horizontal (HOR) on eight days in 1986–1988. EW leaves had the highest light interception, leaf temperatures, CER, and transpiration early and late in the day, whereas HOR leaves had the highest values in the middle of the day. Integrations of CER and transpiration over the eight daytime periods showed EW and HOR leaves to have equivalent carbon gain, higher than that of NS leaves. HOR leaves had the highest daily transpiration. Daily water use efficiency (WUE, carbon gained/water lost) was always highest in EW leaves, with the HOR leaves having 16% lower WUE and NS leaves having 33% lower WUE. The natural orientation of compass plant leaves results in equivalent or higher carbon gain and in increased WUE when compared to leaves with other possible orientations; this is likely to have a selective advantage in a prairie environment.

Key words

Compass plant Leaf inclination Leaf azimuth Photosynthesis Water use efficiency 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas W. Jurik
    • 1
  • Hanzhong Zhang
    • 1
  • John M. Pleasants
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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