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Am J Bot. 2004 Mar;91(3):386-400. doi: 10.3732/ajb.91.3.386.

Analysis of circular bordered pit function II. Gymnosperm tracheids with torus-margo pit membranes.

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  • 1Biology Department, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112 USA.


A model of xylem conduit function was applied to gymnosperm tracheids with torus-margo pit membranes for comparison with angiosperm vessels. Tracheids from 17 gymnosperm tree species with circular bordered pits and air-seed pressures from 0.8 to 11.8 MPa were analyzed. Tracheids were more reinforced against implosion than vessels, consistent with their double function in transport and support. Tracheid pits were 3.3 to 44 times higher in hydraulic conductivity than vessel pits because of greater membrane conductivity of the torus-margo configuration. Tight scaling between torus and pit size maximized pit conductivity. Higher pit conductivity allowed tracheids to be 1.7-3.4 times shorter than vessels and still achieve 95% of their lumen-limited maximum conductivity. Predicted tracheid lengths were consistent with measured lengths. The torus-margo structure is important for maximizing the conductivity of the inherently length-limited tracheid: replacing the torus-margo membrane with a vessel membrane caused stem tracheid conductivity to drop by 41%. Tracheids were no less hydraulically efficient than vessels if they were long enough to reach their lumen-limiting conductivity. However, this may only be possible for lumen diameters below approximately 60-70 μm.

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