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What is the theoretical maximum height of a herbaceous plant stem?

What is the theoretical maximum height of a herbaceous plant stem?



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Foreword: I'm posting this here instead of, say, Worldbuilding, because while it is based in a speculative concept, this is a question purely of biology as we know it instead of speculative biology under non-real conditions. I would address that later and elsewhere. And sorry if this is actually more physics than biology, I have trouble pinning these things down.

I'm trying to determine what the maximum height of a non-woody plant stem can be (i.e. I don't want the tallest flowers). I think the primary issue at hand is load-bearing and resistance to bending. So I found this 1997 paper by Schulgasser and Witzum that sort of discusses what I'm looking for. It suggests that the plant's ability to resist shear forces is a matter of how bundles of fiber are arranged inside the stem and of the plant's internal pressure, which affects how much weight it can stably bear. But I'm no biologist, so the paper is difficult to penetrate. I'm sure there are other issues limiting the height of non-woody plants, like the maximum height above the ground that capillary pressure can raise water. Considering all factors, what is the theoretical maximum height of a herbaceous plant?

I've found this question, which concerns the tallest real herbaceous plant, while my question concerns the theoretical. But I would like to extend that question - are there any examples of fossil herbaceous plants that are larger than the modern banana plant, and do they run up against the theoretical maximum?


Update: I have edited the answer for a better structure and for providing reliable references.

Some of the factors that influence growth, while keeping in mind that every species has particular needs:

• light, temperature
• insufficient light leads to etiolation
• water
• amount of water and dry substances, page 185
• water influences diameter
• soil
• wind
• macronutrients
• citokinin
• genotype
• heterosis
• inbreeding
• pinching the stem stops its growth and promotes lateral stems (I understand that you don't want to, but I list it here so that you can watch out accidents - involuntary pinching has the same effect)
• root type
• shelter near a fence or a wall

You might find some info as to what to consider in your calculations in this paper, although it's about trees.

Just for the purpose of knowledge, herbaceous vines like Ipomoea are also stems and they can grow longer than vertical ones. There may be more to add, but I'm only a Horticulture student, not a plant physiologist.

I strongly recommend to ask plant related questions on Gardening and Landscaping SE, a small community, but a very enthusiastic one. Also, hardly can someone become a good gardener without knowing at least the basics of plant biology and psysiology, so you have a major chance there of receiving answers in a few hours, not days.

Good luck with your project and I hope you'll return to tell us your conclusions. We will be happy to see you interdisciplinary approach.


Microstructural and lignin characteristics in herbaceous peony cultivars with different stem strengths

Herbaceous peony stem diameter could be used to estimate stem strength.

Thickness of secondary cell wall contributed a lot to stem strength.

Three lignin monomers affected herbaceous peony stem strength.

Lignin deposition and secondary cell wall of the stem were observed.

CAD was a key gene controlling herbaceous peony lignin accumulation.


Abstract

Alternative metrics exist for representing variation in plant body size, but the vast majority of previous research for herbaceous plants has focused on dry mass. Dry mass provides a reasonably accurate and easily measured estimate for comparing relative capacity to convert solar energy into stored carbon. However, from a “plant's eye view”, its experience of its local biotic environment of immediate neighbors (especially when crowded) may be more accurately represented by measures of “space occupancy” (S–O) recorded in situ—rather than dry mass measured after storage in a drying oven. This study investigated relationships between dry mass and alternative metrics of S–O body size for resident plants sampled from natural populations of herbaceous species found in Eastern Ontario. Plant height, maximum lateral canopy extent, and estimated canopy area and volume were recorded in situ (in the field)—and both fresh and dry mass were recorded in the laboratory—for 138 species ranging widely in body size and for 20 plants ranging widely in body size within each of 10 focal species. Dry mass and fresh mass were highly correlated (r 2 > .95) and isometric, suggesting that for some studies, between-species (or between-plant) variation in water content may be unimportant and fresh mass can therefore substitute for dry mass. However, several relationships between dry mass and other S–O body size metrics showed allometry—that is, plants with smaller S–O body size had disproportionately less dry mass. In other words, they have higher “body mass density” (BMD) — more dry mass per unit S–O body size. These results have practical importance for experimental design and methodology as well as implications for the interpretation of “reproductive economy”—the capacity to produce offspring at small body sizes—because fecundity and dry mass (produced in the same growing season) typically have a positive, isometric relationship. Accordingly, the allometry between dry mass and S–O body size reported here suggests that plants with smaller S–O body size—because of higher BMD—may produce fewer offspring, but less than proportionately so in other words, they may produce more offspring per unit of body size space occupancy.


Spatial patterns and climate relationships of major plant traits in the New World differ between woody and herbaceous species

Irena Šímová, Center for Theoretical Study, Charles University and The Czech Academy of Sciences, Praha, Czech Republic.

Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (UMR 5175), CNRS - Université de Montpellier - Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier - EPHE, Montpellier, France

Section for Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus C, Denmark

Department of Bioscience, Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World (BIOCHANGE), Aarhus University, Aarhus C, Denmark

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany

German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

Section for Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus C, Denmark

Department of Biology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA, USA

Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand

Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA

School of Biology and Ecology/Sustainability Solutions Initiative, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

Hardner & Gullison Associates, LLC, Amherst, NH, USA

Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands

Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales y Recursos Naturales Renovables, Facultad de Ciencias Agronómicas, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile

Institute of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

Alterra, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Department of Ecology, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Center for Theoretical Study, Charles University and The Czech Academy of Sciences, Praha, Czech Republic

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Praha, Czech Republic

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

The Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM, USA

Center for Theoretical Study, Charles University and The Czech Academy of Sciences, Praha, Czech Republic

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Praha, Czech Republic

IS and CV contributed equally.

Irena Šímová, Center for Theoretical Study, Charles University and The Czech Academy of Sciences, Praha, Czech Republic.

Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (UMR 5175), CNRS - Université de Montpellier - Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier - EPHE, Montpellier, France

Section for Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus C, Denmark

Department of Bioscience, Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World (BIOCHANGE), Aarhus University, Aarhus C, Denmark

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany

German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

Section for Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus C, Denmark

Department of Biology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA, USA

Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand

Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA

School of Biology and Ecology/Sustainability Solutions Initiative, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

Hardner & Gullison Associates, LLC, Amherst, NH, USA

Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands

Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales y Recursos Naturales Renovables, Facultad de Ciencias Agronómicas, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile

Institute of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

Alterra, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Department of Ecology, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Center for Theoretical Study, Charles University and The Czech Academy of Sciences, Praha, Czech Republic

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Praha, Czech Republic

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

The Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM, USA

Abstract

Despite several recent efforts to map plant traits and to identify their climatic drivers, there are still major gaps. Global trait patterns for major functional groups, in particular, the differences between woody and herbaceous plants, have yet to be identified. Here, we take advantage of big data efforts to compile plant species occurrence and trait data to analyse the spatial patterns of assemblage means and variances of key plant traits. We tested whether these patterns and their climatic drivers are similar for woody and herbaceous plants.

Location

New World (North and South America).

Methods

Using the largest currently available database of plant occurrences, we provide maps of 200 × 200 km grid-cell trait means and variances for both woody and herbaceous species and identify environmental drivers related to these patterns. We focus on six plant traits: maximum plant height, specific leaf area, seed mass, wood density, leaf nitrogen concentration and leaf phosphorus concentration.

Results

For woody assemblages, we found a strong climate signal for both means and variances of most of the studied traits, consistent with strong environmental filtering. In contrast, for herbaceous assemblages, spatial patterns of trait means and variances were more variable, the climate signal on trait means was often different and weaker.

Main conclusion

Trait variations for woody versus herbaceous assemblages appear to reflect alternative strategies and differing environmental constraints. Given that most large-scale trait studies are based on woody species, the strikingly different biogeographic patterns of herbaceous traits suggest that a more synthetic framework is needed that addresses how suites of traits within and across broad functional groups respond to climate.


The geographic and climatic distribution of plant height diversity for 19,000 angiosperms in China

The geographic distribution of plant form and function has been studied for over a century for purposes ranging from vegetation classification to global vegetation modeling. Despite this attention we have surprisingly few studies that have actually mapped the distribution and diversity of quantitative plant traits on continental scales and quantified the drivers of these spatial patterns. This limitation has been largely due to the inherent patchiness in trait and spatial databases. Here we analyze the distribution and diversity of plant maximum height in relation to climatic gradients for

19,000 Angiosperm species across China. First, we quantify the relationship between the mean maximum height with climatic variables to test the prediction that precipitation and temperature both should restrict the maximum heights possible in a region. Second, we used null model analysis to address the fundamental question of whether gradients in plant species richness coincide with an increased trait range as expected under limiting similarity theory or whether more species are simply packed into the same range of trait values. The results show that the mean maximum height in a plant assemblage is highest in regions with higher temperatures and annual precipitation indicating that increases in precipitation are enough to offset the concomitant increase in temperature, which was expected to limit plant height. The range and packing of height space were found to increase with species richness and in less climatically variable environments. Null modeling results also show that the deviation of the observed results from expected has a distinct spatial signature for herbaceous and woody plants. Our results highlight plant height diversity, including the range and packing of plant height space, are sensitive to environment, and the mechanisms driving the range and packing of height space in the two growth forms may be different.


Linkage between species traits and plant phenology in an alpine meadow

Plant phenology differs largely among coexisting species within communities that share similar habitat conditions. However, the factors explaining such phenological diversity of plants have not been fully investigated. We hypothesize that species traits, including leaf mass per area (LMA), seed mass, stem tissue mass density (STD), maximum plant height (Hmax), and relative growth rate in height (RGRH), explain variation in plant phenology, and tested this hypothesis in an alpine meadow. Results showed that both LMA and STD were positively correlated with the onset (i.e., beginning) and offset (i.e., ending) times of the four life history events including two reproductive events (flowering and fruiting) and two vegetative events (leafing and senescing). In contrast, RGRH was negatively correlated with the four life phenological events. Moreover, Hmax was positively correlated with reproductive events but not with vegetative events. However, none of the eight phenological events was associated with seed size. In addition, the combination of LMA and STD accounted for 50% of the variation in plant phenologies. Phylogenetic generalized least squares analysis showed plant phylogeny weakened the relationships between species traits vs. phenologies. Phylogeny significantly regulated the variation in the ending but not the beginning of phenologies. Our results indicate that species traits are robust indicators for plant phenologies and can be used to explain the diversity of plant phenologies among co-occurring herbaceous species in grasslands. The findings highlight the important role of the combination of and trade-offs between functional traits in determing plant phenology diversity in the alpine meadow.

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Abstract

Ferula jaeschkeana Vatke is an important threatened medicinal plant of the Himalayan region. The present study was carried out to determine the impact of the habitat variability and altitudinal gradient on the morphological and reproductive features of the species under study. The species exhibited great variability in its morphological traits under different environmental conditions. The plants were more vigorous and taller at a low altitude site, Kashmir University Botanical Garden (KUBG) while the plants of a high altitude site, Gulmarg were shorter. With increased altitude, a significant reduction in the number of umbels per flowering stem, umbellules per umbel and flowers per umbellule occurred. An increase in the number of stigma and anthers was also observed in some plants at higher altitudes. Principal component analysis (PCA) revealed that the habitat of KUBG and Dachigam proved relatively better for the growth of F. jaeschkeana. Maximum resources were allocated to the growth and development of the stem followed by root tubers, leaves and inflorescence. Reproductive success of the plant species varied along the altitudinal gradient and ranged from 64% to 72%. Increasing altitude resulted in a decrease in the allocation of biomass to reproductive structures in the form of decreasing dry weight. The total resource budget per plant was maximum in low altitude Drang (572.6 ± 158.36 g) and Dachigam (568.4 ± 133.42 g) populations and was least in the Gulmarg population (333.4 ± 82.89 g). The reproductive effort was higher (50.83%) for the high altitude Gulmarg population. The regression analysis revealed a positive correlation and predicts that plant height has a direct impact on the umbel diameter and leaf length. Our results present a detailed account on the variation of growth characteristics, reproductive success and changes in allocation patterns in relation to the environmental conditions of this valuable medicinal plant species. This information is very useful to introduce the species into cultivation and developing strategies for conservation and sustainable use of the wild populations.


Abstract

The hypothesis was tested that upper limits to height growth in trees are the result of the increasing bending moment of trees as they grow in height. The increasing bending moment of tall trees demands increased radial growth at the expense of height growth to maintain mechanical stability. In this study, the bending moment of large lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl. Ex Loud. var. latifolia Engelm.) was reduced by tethering trees at 10 m height to counter the wind load. Average bending moment of tethered trees was reduced to 38% of control trees. Six years of tethering resulted in a 40% increase in height growth relative to the period before tethering. By contrast, control trees showed decreased height growth in the period after tethering treatment. Average radial growth along the bole, relative to height growth, was reduced in tethered trees. This strongly suggests that mechanical constraints play a crucial role in limiting the height growth of tall trees. Analysis of bending moment and basal area increment at both 10 m and 1.3 m showed that the amount of wood added to the stem was closely related to the bending moment produced at these heights, in both control and tethered trees. The tethering treatment also resulted in an increase in the proportion of latewood at the tethering height, relative to 1.3 m height. For untethered control trees, the ratio of bending stresses at 10 m versus 1.3 m height was close to 1 in both 1998 and 2003, suggesting a uniform stress distribution along the outer surface of the bole.


Abstract

Monitoring plant growth at the individual level in arrays of environmental conditions is key to understanding plant functioning with strong implications for ecophysiology, population biology and community ecology. This requires non-destructive methods for repeated estimates of individual plant biomass in time. Although allometric equations have been widely used for trees and shrubs, there is currently no general approach for herbaceous species that can be applied across habitats, plant architecture, life stage and leading to transferable equations between contrasted environments. Here we propose a method based on three biometric measurements of the minimum volume occupied by aboveground plant organs. A total of 36 equations were fitted and compared for twelve species of temperate grasslands, corresponding to various volume shapes, scaling functions (linear or power) and including (or not) a life stage effect. The accuracy of the selected equations was compared to similar attempts reported in the literature. We further assessed the across-site transferability of the best allometric equations. The goodness-of-fit of the best equations selected for each species was high (̄R 2 = 0.83). The type of selected equations was species-specific, emphasising the benefits of considering a wide range of plant volume shapes and both linear and power functions. Using a comprehensive assessment of allometric equation transferability, we found that site effects could be neglected for eleven out of twelve species. Biomass equations based on the minimum volume proved accurate. The proposed method is easy to implement in any type of habitat, copes with various plant architectures and reduces risks of error measurement compared to previously developed approaches. The method further allows, for the first time, to use a single equation for monitoring the growth trajectory of herbaceous plant individuals in contrasted environments.


CONCLUDING REMARKS

Species coexistence can be further understood by (a) simultaneously analysing the various traits that determine light capture and photosynthesis and the trade-offs between them, and (b) by analysing the trade-offs associated with specialization to different positions in the niche space defined by temporal and spatial heterogeneity of resources. The challenge is to design canopy models in such a way that they are suited to analyse these aspects in a mechanistic way. Firstly, canopy models should be able to describe the structure of vegetation stands with enough accuracy such that the consequences of interspecific differences in shoot structure (e.g. height, and leaf area and leaf angle distribution) for photosynthesis can be estimated. Relatively few models (e.g. Barnes et al., 1990 Anten and Hirose, 1999, 2003) can adequately account for this variation. Secondly, models for daily canopy photosynthesis should be expanded to incorporate the dynamics of growth (for example, see Pronk, 2004). In this respect, much can be learned from crop growth models ( van Ittersum et al., 2003). Next, trade-offs between the different traits associated with light capture and photosynthesis need to be further understood and implemented mechanistically into models. The same applies for trade-offs in the ability to acquire and use different resources and time-dependent trade-offs. Current models often use empirical relationships [e.g. the relationship between leaf allocation and plant height ( Givnish, 1982 Iwasa et al., 1984 Anten and Hirose, 1998, 1999) or stem diameter and height ( Yokozawa and Hara, 1992)] and as such provide little added understanding of the trade-off. Inclusion of these aspects will make canopy models better able to describe and analyse species diversity in vegetation stands.

I thank Heinjo During, Tadaki Hirose Kaoru Kitajima and Tessa Pronk for constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper.


Watch the video: What Is A Herbaceous Stem? (August 2022).