Shade induced changes in biomechanical petiole properties in the stoloniferous herb Trifolium repens

Heidrun Huber*, Jan de Brouwer, Hannie de Caluwe, Jelmer Wijschedé, Niels P.R. Anten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Increased cell number and cell length both contribute to shade induced elongation of petioles which enables stoloniferous plants to place their leaf lamina higher up in the canopy. Although petiole elongation is assumed to be beneficial, it may also imply costs in terms of decreased biomechanical stability. We test the hypothesis that shade induced elongation changes the biomechanical properties of petioles and that the underlying mechanisms, cell division and cell elongation, differentially affect biomechanical properties. This was done by subjecting 14 genotypes differing in the relative contribution of cell size and cell number to shade induced elongation responses to high light conditions and to simulated canopy shade. Developmental traits (cell size and cell number), morphological traits characterizing the petioles, as well as biomechanical characteristics were measured. Our results show that, comparable to stems of non-clonal plants, the rigidity of a petiole's tissue (the Young's modulus) increases, leading to increased flexural stiffness of petioles subjected to shading. Increased flexural stiffness proved to be associated with increased performance under shaded conditions. Our results also indicate that cell number affected the material properties and the flexural stiffness of petioles. However, the degree and pattern of the effects differed between light environments. Shade induced increase in cell number translated into shade induced increase of Young's modulus and flexural stiffness. Genotypes producing relatively larger cells under shaded conditions experienced a decrease in tissue rigidity. In concert our results indicate that the pattern of selection on flexural stiffness, and thereby also on shade induced changes of cell number and cell size differs among light environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-416
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell number
  • Cell size
  • Flexural stiffness
  • Petiole elongation
  • Shade induced plasticity
  • Stoloniferous plants
  • Young's modulus

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Shade induced changes in biomechanical petiole properties in the stoloniferous herb Trifolium repens'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this