, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 549–558 | Cite as

Leaf plasticity in response to light of three evergreen species of the Mediterranean maquis

Original Article


Morphological, anatomical, biochemical and physiological traits of sun and shade leaves of adult Quercus ilex, Phillyrea latifolia and Pistacia lentiscus shrub species co-occurring in the Mediterranean maquis at Castelporziano (Latium) were studied. Fully expanded sun leaves had 47% (mean of the three species) greater leaf mass area (LMA) and 31% lower specific leaf area (SLA) than shade leaves. Palisade parenchyma thickness contributed on an average 42% to the total leaf thickness, spongy layer 43%, upper epidermal cells 5%, and upper cuticle thickness 3%. Stomatal size was greater in sun (25.5 μm) than in shade leaves (23.6 μm). Total chlorophyll content per fresh mass was 71% greater in shade than in sun leaves, and nitrogen content was the highest in sun (13.7 mg g−1) than in shade leaves (11.8 mg g−1). Difference of net photosynthetic rates (PN) between sun and shade leaves was 97% (mean of the three species). The plasticity index (sensu Valladares et al., New Phytol 148:79–91, 2000a) was the highest for physiological leaf traits (0.86) than for morphological, anatomical and biochemical ones. Q. ilex had the highest plasticity index of morphological, anatomical and physiological leaf traits (0.37, 0.28 and 0.71, respectively) that might explain its wider ecological distribution. The higher leaf plasticity of Q. ilex might be advantageous in response to varying environmental conditions, including global change.


Quercus ilex Phillyrea latifolia Pistacia lentiscus Sun/shade leaves Plasticity index Structural and physiological traits 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia VegetaleUniversità “La Sapienza”RomeItaly
  2. 2.Institut für BotanikInnsbruckAustria

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