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Trellis-forming stems of a tropical liana Condylocarpon guianense (Apocynaceae): A plant-made safety net constructed by simple start-stop development

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Soffiatti, P; Fort, E; Heinz, C; Rowe, NP

NA

2022

FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE

13

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Tropical vines and lianas have evolved mechanisms to avoid mechanical damage during their climbing life histories. We explore the mechanical properties and stem development of a tropical climber that develops trellises in tropical rain forest canopies. We measured the young stems of Condylocarpon guianensis (Apocynaceae) that construct complex trellises via self-supporting shoots, attached stems, and unattached pendulous stems. The results suggest that, in this species, there is a size (stem diameter) and developmental threshold at which plant shoots will make the developmental transition from stiff young shoots to later flexible stem properties. Shoots that do not find a support remain stiff, becoming pendulous and retaining numerous leaves. The formation of a second TYPE II (lianoid) wood is triggered by attachment, guaranteeing increased flexibility of light-structured shoots that transition from self-supporting searchers to inter-connected net-like trellis components. The results suggest that this species shows a hard-wired development that limits self-supporting growth among the slender stems that make up a liana trellis. The strategy is linked to a stem-twining climbing mode and promotes a rapid transition to flexible trellis elements in cluttered densely branched tropical forest habitats. These are situations that are prone to mechanical perturbation via wind action, tree falls, and branch movements. The findings suggest that some twining lianas are mechanically fine-tuned to produce trellises in specific habitats. Trellis building is carried out by young shoots that can perform very different functions via subtle development changes to ensure a safe space occupation of the liana canopy.

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