Infection with Cassytha pubescens R. Br, an Australian native hemiparasitic plant, can lead to death of the invasive shrub, Cytisus scoparius L. Link (Scotch broom). We examined the influence of C. pubescens on photosynthetic physiology of C. scoparius to determine whether this might contribute to death of infected plants. Infected C. scoparius had significantly lower photosynthetic rates, stomatal conductance and transpiration, and higher Ci (internal [CO(2)]), than uninfected plants. Rapid light response curves, determined using chlorophyll fluorescence, indicated significantly lower light-saturated electron transport rates and lower quantum yields for infected plants relative to uninfected plants. However, Rubisco content did not differ between infected and uninfected plants, suggesting the lower photosynthetic rates were most likely due to stomatal closure, rather than lower photosynthetic capacity. As a consequence of lower assimilation rates, PSII efficiency was lower in infected plants than uninfected plants across the diurnal cycle. Infected plants also had significantly lower pre-dawn F(v)/F(m) values and slower recovery from exposure to high light than uninfected plants. Our results suggest that infected C. scoparius are more susceptible to photodamage than uninfected plants. Combined with lower carbon fixation rates, this could contribute to the poor performance and even death of infected plants.
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