The inflorescence of Protea neriifolia B. Br. was two-thirds of the total cut floral stem fresh weight and significantly influenced blackening of the attached 20 to 30 leaves. Floral stems harvested at five developmental stages were characterized for inflorescence diameter, fresh and dry weights, respiration, and nectar production. Inflorescence diameter and fresh and dry weights increased from stage 1 (very tight bud) to stage 5 (bracts reflexed). Respiration rate was high in stages 1 and 3. Nectar production began at stage 4 (open, cylindrical flower) and increased from 2.7 to 9.8 ml per flower with 15% to 23.5% total soluble solids as the flower opened. Postharvest inflorescence diameter, respiration rate, and nectar production increased and leaf blackening decreased when floral stems were placed in 5% (w/v) sucrose solution. Application of 14C-sucrose to a leaf subtending the inflorescence lead to >50% of the radioactivity being found in the nectar within 24 hours. These data indicate that leaf blackening in protea is the result of depletion of carbohydrate by the inflorescence, and that this depletion is primarily due to the sugar demand for nectar production.
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