Storage compartments for capillary water rarely refill in an intact woody plant

Thorsten Knipfer, Italo F. Cuneo, J. Mason Earles, Clarissa Reyes, Craig R. Brodersen, Andrew J. McElrone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Water storage is thought to play an integral role in the maintenance of whole-plant water balance. The contribution of both living and dead cells to water storage can be derived from rehydration and water-release curves on excised plant material, but the underlying tissue-specific emptying/refilling dynamics remain unclear. Here, we used x-ray computed microtomography to characterize the refilling of xylem fibers, pith cells, and vessels under both excised and in vivo conditions in Laurus nobilis. In excised stems supplied with water, water uptake exhibited a biphasic response curve, and x-ray computed microtomography images showed that high water storage capacitance was associated with fiber and pith refilling as driven by capillary forces: fibers refilled more rapidly than pith cells, while vessel refilling was minimal. In excised stems that were sealed, fiber and pith refilling was associated with vessel emptying, indicating a link between tissue connectivity and water storage. In contrast, refilling of fibers, pith cells, and vessels was negligible in intact saplings over two time scales, 24 h and 3 weeks. However, those compartments did refill slowly when the shoot was covered to prevent transpiration. Collectively, our data (1) provide direct evidence that storage compartments for capillary water refill in excised stems but rarely under in vivo conditions, (2) highlight that estimates of capacitance from excised samples should be interpreted with caution, as certain storage compartments may not be utilized in the intact plant, and (3) question the paradigm that fibers play a substantial role in daily discharge/recharge of stem capacitance in an intact tree.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1649-1660
Number of pages12
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2017


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