Cultivars of red (Acer rubrum L.) and Freeman maple (Acer ×freemanii E. Murray) are popular ornamental plants which are commonly placed in a variety of landscapes. To date, little information quantifies the capacity to tolerate and recover from drought among cultivars of red and Freeman maple. The objective of this study was to compare the effects of water stress on the physiology of five different maple cultivars of marketable size including four red maple genotypes, `Summer Red', `October Glory' (October Glory), `Autumn Flame', and `Franksred' (Red Sunset), as well as one hybridized Freeman maple genotype, `Jeffersred' (Autumn Blaze). Two-year-old cloned genotypes of red and Freeman maple were subjected to two treatments: irrigated daily to container capacity or irrigation withheld for one drought and recovery cycle. Light absorption, gas exchange, and chlorophyll fluorescence measurements were conducted under well-watered and drought stress conditions that approached 0.070 m3·m-3. Compared to well-watered conditions, drought stress conditions of 0.090 m3·m-3 had a significant main effect that reduced the amount of light absorption in four of the five genotypes. Additionally, absorption among genotypes was different under both well-watered and water stress conditions. Over the course of drought stress and a recovery phase, net photosynthesis and stomatal conductance were different among genotypes. Maximum photosystem II (PSII) efficiency of dark-adapted leaves (Fv/Fm) was lowered by the water stress condition. The efficiency of excitation capture by open PSII reaction centers (Fv`/Fm') was variable among genotypes. Photochemical quenching was higher in Autumn Blaze, October Glory, and `Summer Red' under drought conditions, which corresponded with a low degree of closure of PSII centers. Additionally, the fraction of excess excitation energy was also lower. Lastly, water deficit caused an increase in PSII efficiency in all genotypes except Autumn Blaze. This research demonstrated physiological variation among commercially available red and Freeman maple genotypes that may be selected for drought tolerance based on site moisture characteristics.
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