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Ann Bot. 2008 Feb;101(3):435-46. Epub 2007 Nov 30.

Timing of canopy closure influences carbon translocation and seed production of an understorey herb, Trillium apetalon (Trilliaceae).

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  • 1Graduate School of Environmental Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, 060-0810, Japan.



The light availability on a temperate, deciduous-forest floor varies greatly, reflecting the seasonal leaf dynamics of the canopy trees. The growth and/or reproductive activity of understorey plants should be influenced by the length of the high-irradiance period from snowmelt to canopy closure. The aim of the present study was to clarify how spring-blooming species regulate the translocation of photosynthetic products to current reproduction and storage organs during a growing season in accordance with the changing light conditions.


Growth pattern, net photosynthetic rate, seed production, and shoot and flower production in the next year of Trillium apetalon were compared between natural and experimentally shaded conditions. Furthermore, translocation of current photosynthetic products within plants was assessed by a labelled carbon-chase experiment.


During the high-irradiance period, plants showed high photosynthetic ability, in which current products were initially used for shoot growth, then reserved in the rhizome. Carbon translocation to developing fruit occurred after canopy closure, but this was very small due to low photosynthetic rates under the darker conditions. The shading treatment in the early season advanced the time of carbon translocation to fruit, but reduced seed production in the current year and flower production of the next year.


Carbon translocation to the storage organ had priority over seed production under high-irradiance conditions. A shortened bright period due to early canopy closure effectively restricts carbon assimilation, which greatly reduces subsequent reproductive output owing to low photosynthetic products for fruit development and small carbon storage for future reproduction. As populations of this species are maintained by seedling recruitment, acceleration of canopy closure timing may influence the maintenance and dynamics of populations.

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