Water Relations, Growth, and Carbon Isotope Discrimination of Drought-stressed Bigtooth Maples Indigenous to New Mexico, Texas, and Utah

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  • 1 New Mexico State Univ., Dept. of Agronomy and Horticulture, Las Cruces, NM 88003
  • 2 New Mexico State Univ., Dept. of Agronomy and Horticulture, Las Cruces, NM 88003

Although valued for its fall foliage color, bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum Nutt.) is not widely used in managed landscapes. Furthermore, information on the tolerance of bigtooth maples to drought is scant. We studied water relations, plant development, and carbon isotope composition of bigtooth maples indigenous to New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. Plants were field grown in New Mexico using a pot-in-pot nursery production system. Plants were maintained as well-irrigated controls or irrigated after the weight of pots decreased by 35% due to evapotranspiration. Drought treatment lasted 71 days. Among the drought-stressed plants, plants native to Logan Canyon in Utah (designated UW2), had the greatest root: shoot dry weight ratio (3.0), while plants with the lowest root: shoot dry weight ratio (0.9) were half siblings from a tree native to the Lost Maples State Park in Texas (designated LMP5). Among the five sources we tested, LMP5 had the greatest (1242 cm2) leaf area, while UW2 plants had the smallest (216 cm2). Regardless of the treatment, plants from LMP5 had the highest shoot dry weight (25.7 g). Plants showed no differences neither among sources nor between treatments in relative water content, specific leaf weight, xylem diameter, root dry weight, plant dry weight, relative growth rate, and carbon isotope discrimination, which averaged - 26.53%. The lack of differences in these parameters might be due to selection of these sources from provenances we deemed to be the most drought tolerant. Our selection was based on the results of a previous greenhouse study of 15 bigtooth maple sources. We conclude that these sources, and in particular, plants from LMP5 in Texas, might hold promise for use in areas prone to drought.

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