Drought Resistance among Freeman Maples

in HortScience

Freeman maples (Acer × freemanii E. Murray) are marketed as stress-resistant alternatives to red maples (Acer rubrum L.), but few data from direct comparisons of these species are available. As a first step in comparing the stress resistance of red maple and Freeman maple, responses to drought were studied in Acer × freemanii `Autumn Fantasy', `Celebration', and `Marmo'. Plants grown from rooted cuttings were treated by withholding irrigation through four drought cycles of increasing severity that were separated by irrigation to container capacity. Drought reduced shoot dry mass, root dry mass, and height growth by 64%, 43%, and 79%, respectively, over all cultivars. Predawn leaf water potential was reduced by 1.16 MPa over all cultivars, and stomatal conductance data indicated water use was more conservative over all root-zone moisture contents after repeated cycles of drought. Specific mass of drought-stressed leaves increased by 25% for `Autumn Fantasy', and microscopy to determine leaf thickness and cellular anatomy is ongoing. `Autumn Fantasy' also had the lowest ratio of leaf surface area to xylem diameter, and `Autumn Fantasy' and `Celebration' had higher ratios of root to shoot mass than `Marmo'. Pressure-volume curve analysis revealed osmotic potential of drought-stressed plants at full turgor was 0.24 MPa more negative than controls, and droughted plants had a greater apoplastic water percentage than controls. Although osmotic adjustment during drought was similar among cultivars, differences in specific mass of leaves and in ratios of transpiring and conducting tissues suggest cultivars of Freeman maple vary in resistance to drought in the landscape.

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