Leaf damage induces twining in a climbing plant

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New Phytologist


(.)Successful climbing by vines not only prevents shading by neighbouring vegetation, but also may place the vines beyond ground herbivores. Here we tested the hypothesis that herbivory might enhance climbing in a vine species, and that such induced climbing should be greater in the shade. We assessed field herbivory in climbing and prostrate ramets of the twining vine Convolvulus arvensis. We evaluated plant climbing after mechanical damage in a glasshouse under both sun and shade conditions, and determined whether control and damaged plants differed in growth rate or photosynthetic capacity. Plants experienced greater herbivory when growing prostrate than when climbing onto companion plants, in both an open habitat and a shaded understorey. Experimental plants increased their twining rate on a stake after suffering leaf damage, in both high- and low-light conditions, and this induced climbing was not coupled to an increase in growth rate. Increased photosynthesis was associated with enhanced twining rate only in the shade. Herbivory may be an ecological factor promoting the evolution of a climbing habit in plants.