Rapid adjustment of leaf angle explains how the desert moss, Syntrichia caninervis, copes with multiple resource limitations during rehydration

Nan Wu, Yuan Ming Zhang*, Alison Downing, Zachary T. Aanderud, Ye Tao, Steven Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Although the desert moss Syntrichia caninervis Mitt. is extremely desiccation tolerant, it still requires water and photosynthates for growth. The ecological significance of the leaf angle in maintaining a balance between water and light availability is critical to its survival. Active leaf repositioning balances water and light availability following rehydration. S. caninervis can adjust leaf angles from a steep (84-69°) to a stable level at 30° within 7s after rehydration, obtaining maximum net photosynthetic gain at a shoot relative water content of ∼60%. Leaf morphological characters, (leaf hair points, surface papillae and costal anatomy) and ultrastructural changes (chloroplast reordering and loss of lipid reserves as shown by changes in osmiophilic globules) were linked to rapid leaf spreading, water gain and sunlight reflectivity of leaves during rehydration. The high 377.20±91.69 (cm2g-1) surface area to mass ratio was a major factor in facilitating the rapid response to rewetting. Hyaline cells of the leaf base absorbed water, swelled and forced the leaf away from the stem as soon as rehydration commenced. Loss of leaf hair points retards leaf angle adjustment during rehydration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-177
Number of pages10
JournalFunctional Plant Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • desiccation
  • leaf angle adjustment
  • leaf hair points (LHPs)

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