Consequences of the elimination of old leaves upon spring phenological events and the new leaves nutrient concentration in a wintergreen woody species in the Southern hemisphere

  • Damascos M
  • Prado C
  • Ladio A
 et al. 
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Previous studies analyzed the importance of old leaves conservancy for wintergreen species plant growth only after early spring old leaves elimination. However, carbon and nutrient resources for growth could have already been translocated from old leaves to shoots during autumn. In this work, the effect of old leaves absence on the leaf mass per area (LMA, g m?2) and nutrient concentration of new spring leaves, shoot growth, and flowering was studied in Aristotelia chilensis, an Andean Patagonic woody wintergreen species of Argentina. Plants were studied after autumn defoliation (AD) or late winter defoliation (WD) and results were compared to those of undamaged control plants (CO). The new leaves LMA and mineral nutrient (N, P, K, and Mg) concentration values did not decrease in AD or WD compared to CO plants. Conversely, CO plants showed higher flowering intensity and shoot lengthening compared to AD or WD plants. There were not remarkable differences regarding the defoliation time, though non-flowering shoots grew in a lesser degree than the flowering shoots inWDplants. It was concluded that A. chilensis old leaves cohort is an important source to shoot growth and flowering but their absence does not affect the new leaves structure or nutritional status from early spring in either AD or inWDplants. New leaves formation probably is guaranteed by resources (carbon and nutrients) previously stored in stems or even in the buds containing the preformed leaves since March, by the end of summer. Provided the availability of complete resources for the new leaf flush independently of the old leaves A. chilensis would restore the carbon balance as soon as possible to resume the growth of heterotrophic tissues at normal rates. Endogenous response to counterbalance the old leaves absence on non-flowering shoots was more effective when there was greater lag time between defoliation and shoot growth resume. Flowering and non-flowering shoots compete for the available resources when A. chilensis have not yet expanded leaves and shoots supporting reproductive structures were stronger sinks compared to non-flowering shoots in WD plants.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Defoliation
  • Flowering
  • Foliar nutrients
  • Leaf mass per area
  • Old leaves
  • Shoot growth
  • Wintergreen species

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