Gas exchange, water relations, and dry weight partitioning of shoot tip cuttings of `Eckespoint Lilo Red' (`Lilo') and `Gutbier V-10 Amy Red' (`Amy') poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Wind. ex Klotzsch) were studied during the initiation and development of adventitious roots. Net photosynthesis (A) and stomatal conductance (g) of cuttings were initially low and remained low until root primordia formation. Foliar relative water content (RWC) and osmotic potential (ψπ) increased upon formation of root primordia. Following formation of root primordia (2 days before visible root emergence) and concurrent with increasing RWC and ψπ, g increased. As roots initially emerged, A and g increased rapidly and continued to increase with further root primordia development and subsequent emergence of adventitious roots. Cutting stem and leaf dry mass and leaf area increased during the first few days after sticking cuttings. During primordium development and initial root emergence, the highest percent increase in dry weight was accounted for by basal stem sections. AU cuttings of both cultivars rooted and had similar root numbers after 23 days, but `Lilo' cuttings had 15% better rooting and 44% more roots than `Amy' after 15 days. This research supports the hypothesis that formation and elongation of root primordia coincides with increased gas exchange in poinsettia cuttings, and that gas exchange can be used as a nondestructive indicator of adventitious root development.
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