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Am J Bot. 2001 Feb;88(2):206-12.

Seasonal conductivity and embolism in the roots and stems of two clonal ring-porous trees, Sassafras albidum (Lauraceae) and Rhus typhina (Anacardiaceae).

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Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824-1312 USA.


Seasonal xylem (wood) conductivity and embolism (air blockage) patterns were monitored in roots vs. stems of two clonal ring-porous tree species, Sassafras albidum and Rhus typhina, throughout 1996 and 1997. Stems of both species were 100% embolized in the early spring and became conductive by late June following leaf expansion and maturation of new earlywood vessels. Dyes indicated the stem conduction was restricted almost exclusively to the current year's growth ring. Stems became totally embolized again by early October, before the first freezing temperatures. In contrast, woody roots of both species maintained low embolism values, many conductive growth rings, and high conductivity values regardless of the season. No positive root pressures were detected in either species. The mean frost depth (204 ± 11 mm) was deeper than all sampled roots of Rhus and 47% of sampled roots of Sassafras. The roots that had been in frozen soil either avoided embolism altogether or they were able to reverse embolism by a mechanism other than positive root pressures.

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