Shade promotes thorn development in a tropical liana, Artabotrys hexapetalus (Annonaceae)

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International Journal of Plant Sciences


The liana Artabotrys hexapetalus (L.f.) Bhand., which is widely planted in the Tropics and native to African rain forests, produced new reiterations (new leader shoots) normally and after damage induced by Hurricane Andrew (August 24, 1992). In each new orthotropic shoot, there is a gradient in lateral branch structures from basal thorns, to vegetative leafy branches, to distal leafy flowering branches. We noted that reiterations developing in shade had more thorns than similar reiterations developing in full sun. Tents with clear (66% photosynthetically active radiation [PAR]) and shaded plastic film (12%-14% PAR) were placed over nodes when the axillary buds began to expand to produce reiteration shoots. After 2 mo of growth inside the tents and in the open, the types of lateral outgrowths (thorn vs. branch) were recorded. Shoots in spectrally neutral shade (red to far red of full sun) and spectrally altered shade (red to far red of canopy shade) produced significantly more thorns at the lower nodes of the shoots as compared to those in full sun. Shoots in control clear plastic tents were the same as those in full sun. We conclude that the fate of lateral bud development is controlled by irradiance (light level) but not by light quality. Increased thorn production in shade could be advantageous to plants growing in the deep shade of rain forests. Thorns in the self- shaded regions of the plant, and well below the forest canopy, could aid in protection from herbivory and in climbing by acting as hooks.