The importance of nitrogen and carbohydrate storage for plant growth of the alpine herb Veratrum album

D. Kleijn, U.A. Treier, H. Müller-Schärer

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35 Citations (Scopus)


We examined whether nitrogen (N) and carbohydrates reserves allow Veratrum album, an alpine forb, to start spring growth earlier than the neighbouring vegetation and to survive unpredictable disturbances resulting in loss of above-ground biomass. Seasonal dynamics of plant reserves, soil N availability and vegetation growth were monitored. Veratrum album shoots were experimentally removed when carbohydrate reserves were at a seasonal minimum and the subsequent changes in biomass and reserves were compared with those in control plants. Reserves did not give V. album a competitive advantage in spring; however, they did function as a buffer against the impact of calamities. Shoot removal resulted in significantly lower root dry weight, higher N concentration in rhizome and roots and lower starch concentrations in rhizome and roots but no plant mortality was observed. Veratrum album used stored N reserves to supplement N uptake and establish high leaf N concentrations, which facilitated a rapid refilling of depleted carbohydrate reserves. The primary function of N reserves appears to be to allow V. album to complete the growing cycle in as short a period as possible, thus minimizing exposure to above-ground risks
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-575
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • altitudinal distribution
  • bistorta-bistortoides
  • nutrient resorption
  • forest
  • carbon
  • photosynthesis
  • population
  • allocation
  • phenology
  • ecosystem


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