Growth habit and mechanical architecture of the sand dune-adapted climber Clematis flammula var. maritima L.

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Annals of Botany


Clematis flammula var. maritima is a woody lianoid plant that grows on coastal sand dunes in the Mediterranean region. Older perennial stems are present as extensive underground axes. These generate surface growth of shorter-lived stems producing monospecific trellises above the surface of the sand. Despite its sand dune habitat and shortage of host support plants, this variety of Clematis shows mechanical characteristics during growth that are closely comparable with those of scandent woody lianas. A significant decrease in the value of structural Young’s modulus is observed from the aerial trellis-forming shoots (1·619 ± 0·492 GN m–2) to emergent axes (0·855 ± 0·253 GN m–2) and underground woody stems (0·470 ± 0·113 GN m–2). Biomechanical and evelopmental observations indicate that most emergent branches are optimized geometrically and mechanically in relation to their points of emergence from the sand, with increases in structural Young’s modulus and the second moment of area around the surface of the sand. Lianoid plants, physiologically capable of withstanding sand dune environments, might represent acceptable natural or introduced species for dune stabilization and conservation.