Author(s): Veronica De Micco, Giovanna Aronne, Pieter Baas
Woody species populating the major Mediterranean ecosystems in the world are characterized by different levels of adaptation to the seasonal Mediterranean climate conditions. Many species of these ecosystems show wood features that allow high efficiency of transport when water is available, while maintaining hydraulic safety during drought periods. This study focuses on the anatomy of juvenile and mature wood of some species representative of continuous sequences of Mediterranean vegetation formations according to gradients of water availability, from xeric to relatively mesic: Cistus monspeliensis L., Rhamnus alaternus L., Myrtus communis L., Pistacia lentiscus L., Olea europaea L., Quercus ilex L., Fraxinus ornus L. and Ostrya carpinifolia L. Twigwood collected in Southern Italy was anatomically compared with the stemwood of the same species represented in the reference slide collection of the National Herbarium of the Netherlands (Lw). The “hydraulic distance” between the wood of main stems and twigs was estimated on the basis of suites of anatomical features related to water efficiency/safety. Although some attributes (i.e. porosity and type of imperforate tracheary elements) were similar in young twigs and older rings, other traits (i.e. vessel frequency and size) evidenced the different hydraulic properties of twig and stemwood. The difference between juvenile and mature structures was large in the species of the mesic end of the gradient while it was relatively small in those more xeric. This tendency is in agreement with the habit gradient from medium-sized trees to small evergreen/drought deciduous shrubs according to decreasing water availability in Mediterranean vegetation types.