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Am J Bot. 2003 Mar;90(3):404-12. doi: 10.3732/ajb.90.3.404.

Allometry and development in herbaceous plants: functional responses of meristem allocation to light and nutrient availability.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, K7L 3N6.


We examined the relationship between meristem allocation and plant size for four annual plant species: Arabidopsis thaliana, Arenaria serphyllifolia, Brassica rapa, and Chaenorrhinum minus. Gradients of light and nutrient availability were used to obtain a range of plant sizes for each of these species. Relative allocation to reproductive, inactive, and growth meristems were used to measure reproductive effort, apical dominance, and branching intensity, respectively. We measured allocation to each of these three meristem fates at weekly intervals throughout development and at final developmental stage. At all developmental stages reproductive effort and branching intensity tended to increase with increasing plant size (i.e., due to increasing resource availability) and apical dominance tended to decrease with increasing plant size. We interpret these responses as a strategy for plants to maximize fitness across a range of environments. In addition, significant differences in meristem response among species may be important in defining the range of habitats in which a species can exist and may help explain patterns of species competition and coexistence in habitats with variable resource availability.

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