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Oecologia. 1999 Feb;118(2):248-255. doi: 10.1007/s004420050725.

A triangular relationship between leaf size and seed size among woody species: allometry, ontogeny, ecology and taxonomy.

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Sheffield Centre for Arctic Ecology and Unit of Comparative Plant Ecology, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, The University, 26 Taptonville Road, Sheffield S10 5BR, UK e-mail:, Fax: +44-114-2682521, , , , , , GB.


 A hypothesized relationship between seed weight and leaf size was investigated for 58 diverse British (semi-)woody species. Interspecific variation in leaf size of adult plants corresponded allometrically with interspecific variation in the weight of an infructescence (seed-bearing inflorescence). The relationship between seed size and leaf size of adult plants was triangular. The corners of the triangle were interpreted in terms of ecological strategy. Medium-sized infructescences, small seeds and large leaves were seen among medium-sized, fast-growing, earlier-successional, mostly deciduous shrubs and trees; small infructescences, small seeds and small leaves mostly among low, slow-growing evergreens from stress-prone, proclimax habitats; and large infructescences, large seeds and large leaves among slow-growing, later-successional trees of potential competitive vigour. The hypothesis that the combination of large seeds and small leaves is allometrically unlikely was supported by the data. The roles of ontogeny and taxonomic relatedness in the seed size-leaf size relationship were examined by correlative and taxonomic analyses of seed, plant and leaf size during the unfolding of the life history from seed through two seedling phases to adulthood. Deciduous versus evergreen leaf habit was a source of deviation from the otherwise linear allometric relationships during ontogenetic development, none of which were, individually, confounded significantly with taxonomy.


Ecological strategy; Key words Allometric; Leaf area; Ontogenetic; Seed weight


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