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Seedling Leaf Structure of New England Maples (Acer) in Relation to Light Environment

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Seedling leaves of the genus Acer from southern New England were compared in relation to light. The species investigated were red maple (A. rubrum L.), a species tolerant of xeric and hydric sites; silver maple (A. saccharinum L.), a species restricted to riparian sites that are periodically flooded; and sugar maple (A. saccharum Marsh.), a mesic species of lower slopes and valleys. Germinating seedlings of all species were collected and grown within four shade treatments that had contrasting light quantity and quality: (1) approximately 100% of full sunlight, red:far-red ratio = 1.27; (2) 40% of full sunlight, ratio = 0.97; (3) 15% of full sunlight, ratio = 0.85; and (4) 4% of full sunlight, ratio = 0.46. Leaves, cuticles, and epidermal and palisade mesophyll cell layers were all thicker, and stomatal densities were higher for all three species in the full sun treatment. Dimensions of leaf structure (leaf thickness, palisade mesophyll thickness, lower epidermal thickness) were between 25 and 35% smaller for silver maple as compared to the other maples. Silver maple also allocated less biomass to roots (about 15% less) and more to stems. Its thin upper surface cuticle, thin leaves, and large leaf area predispose this species to desiccation. Phenotypic plasticity of leaf anatomical measures was greatest for red maple, suggesting it to be more of a generalist than its congeners. Red maple allocated greater biomass to roots in shade (17% and 27% more than sugar and silver maple respectively), with thicker leaves and cuticle, making it least prone to desiccation. Sugar maple had greater dry mass and total leaf area in the deepest shade than the other maples. Measures of leaf structure can provide useful insights into known ecological affinities of site and shade-tolerance among maples. For. Sci. 45(4):512-519.

Keywords: A. saccharinum; A. saccharum; Acer rubrum; leaf anatomy; red:far red ratio

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Physiology, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06511

Publication date: November 1, 1999

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