Correspondence of environmental tolerances with leaf and branch attributes for six co-occurring species of broadleaf evergreen trees in northern California
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For the angiosperm dominants of northern California’s mixed evergreen forests, this study compares the display of photosynthetic tissue within leaves and along branches, and examines the correspondence between these morphological attributes and the known environmental tolerances of these species. Measurements were made on both sun and shade saplings of six species: Arbutusmenziesii (Ericaceae), Chrysolepischrysophylla (Fagaceae), Lithocarpusdensiflorus (Fagaceae), Quercuschrysolepis (Fagaceae), Quercuswislizenii (Fagaceae), and Umbellulariacalifornica (Lauraceae). All species had sclerophyllous leaves with thick epidermal walls, but species differed in leaf specific weight, thickness of mesophyll tissues and in the presence of a hypodermis, crystals, secretory idioblasts, epicuticular deposits, and trichomes. The leaves of Arbutus were 2 – 5 times larger than those of Chrysolepis, Lithocarpus and Umbellularia and 4 – 10 times larger than those of both Quercus species. Together with differences in branch architecture, these leaf traits divide the species into groups corresponding to environmental tolerances. Shade-tolerant Chrysolepis, Lithocarpus, and Umbellularia had longer leaf lifespans and less palisade tissue, leaf area, and crown mass per volume than the intermediate to intolerant Arbutus and Quercus. Having smaller leaves, Quercus branches had more branch mass per leaf area and per palisade volume than other species, whereas Arbutus had less than other species. These differences in display of photosynthetic tissue should contribute to greater growth for Quercus relative to the other species under high light and limited water, for Arbutus under high light and water availability, and for Chrysolepis, Lithocarpus, and Umbellularia under limiting light levels.
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