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Developmental plasticity and biomechanics of treelets and lianas in Manihot aff. quinquepartita (Euphorbiaceae): a branch-angle climber of French Guiana

Journal Article

Menard L; Mckey D; Rowe N


Annals of Botany



Background and Aims: Most tropical lianas have specialized organs of attachment such as twining stems hooks or tendrils but some do not. Many climbers also have an early self-supporting phase of growth and in some species this can produce treelet-sized individuals. This study focuses on how a liana can climb without specialized attachment organs and how biomechanical properties of the stem are modulated between self-supporting treelets and canopy-climbing lianas. Methods: Biomechanics and stem development were investigated in self-supporting to climbing individuals of Manihot aff. quinquepartita (Euphorbiaceae) from tropical rain forest at Savºl central French Guiana. Bending tests were carried out close to the site of growth. Mechanical properties including Young\s elastic modulus were observed with reference to habit type and changes in stem anatomy during development. Key Results: This liana species can show a remarkably long phase of self-supporting growth as treelets with stiff juvenile wood characterizing the branches and main stem. During the early phase of climbing stiff but unstable stem segments are loosely held in a vertical position to host plants via petiole bases. The stiffest stems ‚Äì those having the highest values of Young\s modulus measured in bending ‚Äì belonged to young leaning and climbing stems. Only when climbing stems are securely anchored into the surrounding vegetation by a system of wide-angled branches does the plant develop highly flexible stem properties. As in many specialized lianas the change in stiffness is linked to the development of wood with numerous large vessels and thin-walled fibres. Conclusions: Some angiosperms can develop highly effective climbing behaviour and specialized flexible stems without highly specialized organs of attachment. This is linked to a high degree of developmental plasticity in early stages of growth. Young individuals in either open or closed marginal forest conditions can grow as substantial treelets or as leaning/climbing plants depending on the availability of host supports. The species of liana studied differs both in terms of development and biomechanics from many other lianas that climb via twining tendrils or other specialized attachment organs.


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