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Ann Bot. 2007 Jan;99(1):121-30. Epub 2006 Nov 3.

The effects of mechanical stress and spectral shading on the growth and allocation of ten genotypes of a stoloniferous plant.

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  • 1Section Plant Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.



Because plants protect each other from wind, stand density affects both the light climate and the amount of mechanical stress experienced by plants. But the potential interactive effects of mechanical stress and canopy shading on plant growth have rarely been investigated and never in stoloniferous plants which, due to their creeping growth form, can be expected to respond differently to these factors than erect plants.


Plants of ten genotypes of the stoloniferous species Potentilla reptans were subjected to two levels of mechanical stress (0 or 40 daily flexures) and two levels of spectral shading (15 % of daylight with a red:far red ratio of 0.3 vs. 50 % daylight and a red:far red ratio of 1.2).


Mechanically stressed plants produced more leaves with shorter more flexible petioles, more roots, and more but less massive stolons. Responses to spectral shading were mostly in the opposite direction to thigmomorphogenesis, including the production of thinner, taller petioles made of more rigid tissue. The degree of thigmomorphogenesis was either independent of light climate or stimulated by spectral shading. At the genotypic level there were no clear correlations between responses to shade and mechanical stress.


These results suggest that in stoloniferous plants mechanical stress results in clones with a more compact, shorter shoot structure and more roots. This response does not appear to be suppressed by canopy shading, which suggests that wind shielding (reduced mechanical stress) by neighbours in dense vegetation serves as a cue that induces shade avoidance responses such as increased petiole elongation.

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