Light Effects on Leaf Morphology in Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)

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Water hyacinth leaves in natural populations vary from being long and thin-petioled to being short with inflated petioles. A variety of factors has been used experimentally to alter water hyacinth leaf shape, but what controls the development of leaf morphology in the field has not been established. We measured photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) and spectral distribution of radiation in a natural water hyacinth population. PPFD in the center of the water hyacinth mat was reduced to 2.7% of full sunlight, and the red to far red (R:FR) ratio was reduced to 0.28. When shoot tips of plants were exposed to artificial light environments, only plants in the treatment with a R:FR ratio comparable to that in the natural population produced leaves with long, thin petioles. Shoot tips in full sun or covered with clear plastic bags or bags that reduced light quantity without greatly altering light quality produced shorter leaves with inflated petioles. We hypothesize that the altered light quality inside a mat is a major environmental control of water hyacinth leaf morphology.

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