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Am J Bot. 2004 Mar;91(3):369-85. doi: 10.3732/ajb.91.3.369.

Analysis of circular bordered pit function I. Angiosperm vessels with homogenous pit membranes.

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


A model predicted pit and vessel conductivity, the air-seed pressure for cavitation, and the implosion pressure causing vessel collapse. Predictions were based on measurements from 27 angiosperm species with circular bordered pits and air-seed pressures of 0.2-11.3 MPa. Vessel implosion pressure exceeded air-seed pressure by a safety factor of 1.8 achieved by the increase in vessel wall thickness per vessel diameter with air-seed pressure. Intervessel pitting reduced the implosion pressure by 20 to 40%. Pit hydraulic conductivity decreased by 30-fold from low (<1 MPa) to high (>10 MPa) air-seed pressure primarily because of decreasing pit membrane conductivity. Vessel conductivity (per length and wall area) increased with vessel length as higher lumen conductivity overcame low pit conductivity. At the "saturating vessel length," vessel conductivity maximized at the Hagen-Poiseuille value for the lumen per wall area. Saturated vessel conductivity declined by sixfold with increasing air-seed pressure because of increased wall thickness associated with increased implosion resistance. The saturated vessel length is likely the optimal length because: (a) shorter vessels have lower conductivities, (b) longer vessels do not increase conductivity when functional yet decrease it more when cavitated, (c) observed pit structure most closely optimized vessel conductivity at the saturated length, and (d) saturated lengths were similar to measured lengths.

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