pp 1–12 | Cite as

Intraspecific variation in morphology, physiology, and ecology of wildtype relative to horticultural varieties of red maple (Acer rubrum)

  • Eleanor C. LahrEmail author
  • Kristi M. Backe
  • Steven D. Frank
Original Article


Key message

Wildtype and horticultural varieties of red maple seedlings had different morphologies and physiological responses to water stress and abundances of an insect herbivore when grown in a common garden.


Horticultural varieties of trees (cultivars) are selected for desirable and consistent morphologies relative to wildtype trees, but the ways by which morphology influences intraspecific physiological and ecological responses are unclear. In this study, we compared morphology, gas exchange and water use efficiency, and stem herbivory for seedlings of wildtype red maple (Acer rubrum) and two cultivars, ‘Summer Red’ and ‘Brandywine,’ grown together in a common garden. Seedlings also received high and low water treatments. Overall, wildtype seedlings grew taller, had fewer, larger leaves, intermediate rates of photosynthesis, and lower abundances of the scale insect Melanapsis tenebricosa, relative to the cultivars. Summer Red seedlings had more leaves, leaves with red coloration throughout the growing season, and the highest rates of photosynthesis, although photosynthesis was higher in green relative to red leaves. Brandywine seedlings tended to be intermediate in morphology, exhibited smaller differences between the high and low water treatments, and had higher leaf water use efficiency than Summer Red seedlings in April and June but similar water use efficiency in September. Total seedling water use efficiency, measured in September, was highest for wildtype seedlings. Both cultivars had more scale insects than wildtype seedlings under well-watered conditions. These differences among types of red maple aid in understanding how intraspecific variation in tree appearance—and the en masse planting of a single cultivar in cities—affects physiological and ecological responses, the provision of ecosystem services, and the condition of planted trees.


Acer rubrum Cultivar Genotype Photosynthesis Red maple Wildtype 



We thank Annemarie Nagle for logistical support and Nicole Bissonette, Doua Jim Lor, Danielle Schmidt, Kyle Sozanski, and Logan Tyson for help with fieldwork and labwork. This project was supported by Cooperative Agreement No. G15AP00153 from the United States Geological Survey to SDF and by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture under Agreement No. 2014-70006-22485 via the Southern IPM Center Enhancement Grant Program, and under Agreement No. 2013-02476, 2016-70006, and 2016-25827 to SDF. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-1252376 to KMB. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Entomology and Plant PathologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Department of Applied EcologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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