, Volume 84, Issue 4, pp 544–552 | Cite as

A survey of vessel dimensions in stems of tropical lianas and other growth forms

  • Frank W. Ewers
  • Jack B. Fisher
  • S. -T. Chiu
Original Papers


Vessel dimensions (total diameter and length) were determined in tropical and subtropical plants of different growth forms with an emphasis upon lianas (woody vines). The paint infusion and compressed air methods were used on 38 species from 26 genera and 16 families in the most extensive survey of vessel length made to date. Within most stems there was a skewed frequency distribution of vessel lengths and diameter, with many short and narrow vessels and few long and wide ones. The longest vessel found (7.73 m) was in a stem of the liana (woody vine) Pithecoctenium crucigerum. Mean vessel length for 33 species of lianas was 0.38 m, average maximum length was 1.45 m. There was a statistically significant inter-species correlation between maximum vessel length and maximum vessel diameter. Among liana stems and among tree+shrub stems there were statistically significant correlations between stem xylem diameter and vessel dimensions. Lianas with different adaptations for climbing (tendril climbers, twiners, scramblers) were similar in their vessel dimensions except that scramblers tended to have shorter (but not narrower) vessels. Within one genus, Bauhinia, tendril climbing species had greater maximum vessel lengths and diameters than tree and shrub species. The few long and wide vessels of lianas are thought to hydraulically compensate for their narrow stem diameters. The many narrow and short vessels, which are present in the same liana stems, may provide a high resistance auxiliary transport system.

Key words

Lianas Vessel diameter Vessel length Water conductivity Wood 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ayensu ES, Stern WL (1964) Systematic anatomy and ontogeny of the stem in Passifloraceae. Contr US Nat Herb 34:45–71Google Scholar
  2. Bamber RK (1984) Wood analtomy of some Australian rainforest vines. In: Syoji Sudo (ed) Proceedings of Pacific Regional Wood Anatomy Conference. For & For Products Res Inst, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, JapanGoogle Scholar
  3. Baas P, Schweingruber FH (1987) Ecological trends in the wood anatomy of trees, shrubs, and climbers from Europe. Int Assoc Wood Anat Bulletin ns 8:245–274Google Scholar
  4. Carlquist S (1975) Ecological strategies of xylem evolution. Univ Calif Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  5. Carlquist S (1985) Observations on functional wood histology of vines and lianas: vessel dimorphism, tracheids, vasicentric tracheids, narrow vessels, and parenchyma. Aliso 11:139–157Google Scholar
  6. Carlquist S (1988) Comparative wood anatomy. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  7. Chiu S-T, Ewers FW (1990) Water transport and xylem structure in a twiner, a scrambler, and a shrub of Lonicera (Caprifoliaceae). Am J Bot 77:[A] 77 (6 Suppl):10Google Scholar
  8. Crombie DS, Hipkins MF, Milburn JA (1985) Gas penetration of pit membranes in the xylem of Rhododendron and other species. Planta 163:27–33Google Scholar
  9. Ellmore GS, Ewers FW (1986) Fluid flow in the outermost xylem increment of a ring-porous tree, Ulmus americana. Am J Bot 73:1771–1774Google Scholar
  10. Ewers FW (1985) Xylem structure and water conduction in conifer tree, dicot trees, and lianas. Int Assoc Wood Anat Bull 6:309–317Google Scholar
  11. Ewers FW, Cruiziat P (1990) Measuring water transport and storage. In: Lassoie JP, Hinckley TM (eds) Techniques and Approaches in Forest Tree Ecophysiology. CRC Press, Boca Raton 91–116Google Scholar
  12. Ewers FW, Fisher JB (1989a) Techniques for measuring vessel lengths and diameters in stems of woody plants. Am J Bot 76:645–656Google Scholar
  13. Ewers FW, Fisher JB (1989b) Variation in vessel length and diameter in stems of six tropical and subtropical lianas. Am J Bot 76:1452–1459Google Scholar
  14. Ewers FW, Fisher JB, Chiu S-T (1989) Xylem structure and water transport in the liana Bauhinia fassoglensis (Fabaceae). Plant Physiol 91:1625–1631Google Scholar
  15. Ewers FW, Fisher JB, Fichtner K (in press). Water flux and xylem structure in vines. In: Putz F, Bullock S, Mooney H (eds) The Biology of Vines. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Fisher JB (1970) Xylem derived from the intercalary meristem of Cyperus alternifolius. Bull Torrey Bot Club 97:58–66Google Scholar
  17. Gartner BL, Bullock SH, Mooney HA, Brown VB, Whitbeck JL (1990) Water transport properties of vine and tree stems in a tropical deciduous forest. Am J Bot 77:742–749Google Scholar
  18. Greenidge KNH (1952) An approach to the study of vessel length in hardwood species. Am J Bot 39:570–574Google Scholar
  19. Handley WRC (1936) Some observations on the problem of vessel length determination in woody dicotyledons. New Phytol 35:456–471Google Scholar
  20. Hellkvist J, Richards GP, Jarvis PG (1974) Vertical gradients of water potential and tissue water relations in Sitka spruce trees measured with the pressure chamber. J Appl Ecol 11:637–668Google Scholar
  21. Klotz LH (1978) Observations on diameters of vessels in stems of palms. Principes 22:99–106Google Scholar
  22. Kramer PJ, Kozlowski TT (1979) Physiology of woody plants. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Putz FE (1983) Liana biomass and leaf area of a “tierra firme” forest in the Rio Negro Basin, Venezuela, Biotropica 15:185–189Google Scholar
  24. Schenck H (1893) Beiträge zur Biologie und Anatomie der Lianen. II. Beiträge zur Anatomie der Lianen. Bot Mitt Trop 4:1–248Google Scholar
  25. Schultz HR, Matthews M (1988) Resistance to water transport in shoots of Vitis vinifera L. Plant Physiol 88:718–724Google Scholar
  26. Scholander PF (1958) The rise of sap in lianas. In: Thimann KV (ed) The Physiology of Forest Trees. Ronald Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Scholander PF, Love WE, Kanwisher JW (1955) The rise of sap in tall grapevines. Plant Physiol 30:93–104Google Scholar
  28. Skene DS, Balodis V (1968) A study of vessel length in Eucalyptus obliqua L'Herit. J Exp Bot 19:825–830Google Scholar
  29. Sperry JS, Holbrook NM, Zimmermann MH, Tyree MT (1987) Spring filling of xylem vessels in wild grapevine. Plant Physiol 83:414–417Google Scholar
  30. Sperry JS, Tyree MT (1988) Mechanism of water stress-induced xylem embolism. Plant Physiol 88:581–587Google Scholar
  31. Sperry JS, Tyree MT, Donnelly JR (1988) Vulnerability of xylem to embolism in a mangrove vs an inland species of Rhizophoraceae. Physiol Plant 74:276–283Google Scholar
  32. Steel RGD, Torrie JH (1980) Principles and procedures of statistics. 2nd ed. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Tyree MT (1988) A dynamic model for water flow in a single tree: evidence that models must account for hydraulic architecture. Tree Physiol 4:195–217Google Scholar
  34. Tyree MT, Dixon MA (1986) Water stress induced cavitation and embolism in some woody plants. Physiol Plant 66:397–405Google Scholar
  35. Tyree MT, Sperry JS (1989) Vulnerability of xylem to cavitation and embolism. Ann Rev Plant Phys 40:19–38Google Scholar
  36. Van Vliet GJCM (1981) Wood anatomy of the palaeotropical Melastomataceae. Blumea 27:395–462Google Scholar
  37. Welle BJH TER (1985) Differences in wood anatomy of lianas and trees. Int Assoc Wood Anat Bull 6:70Google Scholar
  38. Zimmermann MH (1983) Xylem structure and the ascent of sap. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. Zimmermann MH, Brown CL (1971) Trees. Structure and function. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  40. Zimmermann MH, Jeje AA (1981) Vessel-length distribution in stems of some American woody plants. Can J Bot 59:1882–1892Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank W. Ewers
    • 1
  • Jack B. Fisher
    • 2
    • 3
  • S. -T. Chiu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Botany and Plant PathologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Fairchild Tropical GardenMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

Personalised recommendations