Albizia procera Benth. is an early successional leguminous tree species that occurs naturally in dry tropical forests in India. The growth response of seedlings of A. procera from seeds of different sizes was studied under four soil water levels. Seeds were surface sterilized, germinated and grown in a glasshouse for 3 weeks under optimal water supply, and were subsequently maintained at four soil water levels for 4 months. Soil matric potentials for 1, 1/2, 1/3 and 1/4 water holding capacity (WHC) were -0·01, -0·1, -0·61 and -1·20 MPa, respectively. Plant height, stem diameter and leaf area were measured fortnightly. Seedlings were harvested at the end of the experiment. Biomass, relative growth rate (RGR), stem weight ratio (SWR), root:shoot ratio (R:S ratio) and net assimilation rate (NAR) were determined. Seedlings from large seeds had a higher biomass and leaf area and were more tolerant of long-term extreme water stress compared to those from small seeds which were more tolerant of moderate levels of water stress. Seedlings from small seeds did not survive beyond 75 d at 1/4 WHC. Increase in the R:S ratio along with a decrease in SWR reflected a shift in biomass allocation from above- to below-ground parts as soil water level decreased. SLA declined sharply with increasing water stress, which in turn led to a decrease in RGR. NAR increased with water stress. The study revealed the ability of the species to acclimate to a wide range of moisture stress by morphogenetic (increased R:S ratio and decreased SWR) and physiological (increased NAR) plastic responses. © 2000 Annals of Botany Company.
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