Root contraction helps protect the "living rock" cactus Ariocarpus fissuratus from lethal high temperatures when growing in rocky soilAmerican Journal of Botany (2010)
Abstract• Premise of the study: We investigated how the “living rock” cactus Ariocarpus fissuratus, like other low-growing desert plants, can endure potentially lethal high temperatures at the soil surface. Specifically, we examined how shoot descent by root contraction in the presence or absence of soil rocks influences shoot temperatures and transpiration. • Methods: Root contraction was identified by measuring shoot descent and anatomical analysis. Temperatures and transpiration were measured for plants at two heights in sandy and rocky soil, and temperature tolerances were determined by vital staining. • Key results: Plants embedded in rocky soil survived an extreme heat episode, unlike plants in sandy soil, though rocks did not moderate low temperatures. Root contraction occurred regardless of season and soil moisture. Xylem conduits (wide-band tracheids) formed a compressible lattice that decreased root length as rays enlarged the root base radially. Plant position in the soil did not affect transpiration. • Conclusions: Contractile roots pulled plants of A. fissuratus into the soil at rates of 6–30 mm yr–1. Maintaining shoots level with the soil surface kept plant temperatures below the high lethal temperature and improved survivorship in soil shaded by surface rocks.
Citation InformationGretchen North, T.Y. Garrett and C.V. Huynh. "Root contraction helps protect the "living rock" cactus Ariocarpus fissuratus from lethal high temperatures when growing in rocky soil" American Journal of Botany Vol. 97 (2010)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/gretchen_north/2/