Anthurium (Anthurium andraeanum Hort.) is a herbaceous tropical perennial highly sought after on the world market as a cut flower. The bloom is composed of a modified bract (spathe) and a stalk-like inflorescence (spadix) supported on a peduncle (Dufour and Guérin, 2003). Cultivars are available in a range of vivid colors (white, green, orange, pink, and red) with equally vivid names (‘Fantasia’, ‘Showbiz’, ‘Madame Butterfly’, etc.). Among the most valued attributes of anthurium is its long vase life. Within the germplasm, vase life ranges from the extraordinarily long (e.g. greater than 40 d for ‘Honduras’) to the prohibitively short (e.g. less than 15 d for ‘Spirit’) (Elibox and Umaharan, 2010). The mechanisms regulating this variation in vase life are unknown, limiting the ability of breeders to select for this trait.
Elibox and Umaharan (2008) found that deterioration of vase life in anthurium is associated with loss of spathe glossiness, spathe wilting, spathe blueing, and necrosis of the spathe and spadix. Spadix necrosis was the first visible indication of deterioration of vase life for most cultivars and hence is the best index for cultivar comparisons. A number of studies have established an association between anthurium vase life and the water relations of the cut flower (Elibox and Umaharan, 2010; Mujaffar and Sankat, 2003; Paull et al., 1985). Similar associations have been found in other species and can result from either an obstruction in water transport or a reduced ability to retain water in the floral organ as senescence begins (Solomos and Gross, 1997). As such, genotypic variation in vase life may be driven by water supply or by the senescence response in the bloom. It is currently unclear whether deterioration of the anthurium cut flower is the result of the direct effect of water loss or is mediated by a senescence response in the bloom.
Several authors have suggested that deterioration of vase life in anthurium is “probably” as a result of occlusion of the vascular system at the base of the peduncle, possibly associated with the cutting of the bloom (Higaki et al., 1994; Paull et al., 1985; Paull and Goo, 1982). Elibox and Umaharan (2010) found that genotypic variation in vase life was associated with differences in the pattern of water uptake from the vase, which led the authors to suggest that the extent of occlusion may be a factor in determining water uptake. However, although occlusion has been shown to occur in cut flowers of other species [e.g. rose (Rosa hybrida L.; Ichimura et al., 1999) and chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflora Ramat.; van Doorn and Cruz, 2000)], there is no direct evidence from these studies that occlusion is the major determinant of loss of vase life in anthurium.
Vase life has been shown to be associated with the rate of water loss through transpiration from the spathe and spadix (Elibox and Umaharan, 2008, 2010; Mujaffar and Sankat, 2003; Paull et al., 1985). Elibox and Umaharan (2010) found that the dynamics of water loss explained a large proportion of the genotypic variation in vase life.
We evaluate bloom water status by combining measurements of water uptake from the vase with direct measurements of gS from the spathe as well as measurements of RWC from the spathe and from the base and apex of the peduncle. Physiological senescence is assessed through visual observation of the spadix and by measuring the membrane integrity of the spathe tissue. Our objectives were to determine whether loss of vase life is controlled by bloom water status or by physiological senescence and to determine the extent to which genotypic variation in vase life is explained by bloom water relations.
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