"Living stones" (Lithops spp.) display some of the most extreme morphological and physiological adaptations in the plant kingdom to tolerate the xeric environments in which they grow. The physiological mechanisms that optimise the photosynthetic processes of Lithops spp. while minimising transpirational water loss in both above- and below-ground tissues remain unclear. Our experiments have shown unique simultaneous high-light and shade-tolerant adaptations within individual leaves of Lithops aucampiae. Leaf windows on the upper surfaces of the plant allow sunlight to penetrate to photosynthetic tissues within while sunlight-blocking flavonoid accumulation limits incoming solar radiation and aids screening of harmful UV radiation. Increased concentration of chlorophyll a and greater chlorophyll a:b in above-ground regions of leaves enable maximum photosynthetic use of incoming light, while inverted conical epidermal cells, increased chlorophyll b, and reduced chlorophyll a:b ensure maximum absorption and use of low light levels within the below-ground region of the leaf. High NPQ capacity affords physiological flexibility under variable natural light conditions. Our findings demonstrate unprecedented physiological flexibility in a xerophyte and further our understanding of plant responses and adaptations to extreme environments.
|Number of pages||7|
|Publication status||Published - 23 Oct 2013|