Water relations of Calycanthus flowers: Hydraulic conductance, capacitance, and embolism resistance


For most angiosperms, producing and maintaining flowers is critical to sexual repro- duction, yet little is known about the physiological processes involved in maintaining flowers throughout anthesis. Among extant species, flowers of the genus Calycanthus have the highest hydraulic conductance and vein densities of species measured to date, yet they can wilt by late morning under hot conditions. Here, we combine diurnal measurements of gas exchange and water potential, pressure–volume relations, functional responses of gas exchange, and characterization of embolism formation using high resolution X‐ray computed microtomography to determine drought responses of Calycanthus flowers. Transpiration from flowers frequently exceeded transpiration from leaves, and flowers were unable to limit transpiration under conditions of high vapour pressure deficit. As a result, they rely heavily on hydraulic capacitance to prevent water potential declines. Despite having high water potentials at turgor loss, flowers were very resistant to embolism formation, with no embolism apparent until tepal water potentials had declined to −2 MPa. Although Calycanthus flowers remain connected to the stem xylem and have high hydraulic capacitance, their inability to curtail transpiration leads to turgor loss. These results suggest that extreme climate events may cause flower failure, potentially preventing successful reproduction.

Plant, Cell & Environment