Contents of sugars in leaves of drying desiccation tolerant flowering plants, particularly grasses

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Sugar complements were analysed in extracts from leaves of desiccation tolerant species in the angiosperm families Cyperaceae, Gesneriaceae, Liliaceae, Poaceae and Velloziaceae. Total sugar content was higher in live air-dry leaves of all desiccation tolerant species (except the grass Eragrostiella nardoides; 22 µmoles/g dw)) than in the dead air-dry leaves of the desiccation sensitive grass Sporobolus pyramidalis (36 µmoles/g dw)). Sucrose contents rose to high levels (40–98 µmoles/g dw)) in live air-dry leaves of all species (except the grass Eragrostiella nardoides in which it rose to only 11 µmoles/g dw)) to become the predominant sugar. Glucose and/or fructose contents frequently were lower after leaf drying but usually these were the sugars of next highest contents in live air-dry leaves. Contents of raffinose (that has been postulated to reduce sucrose crystallization)) rose to c. 10% of sucrose contents in air-dry leaves of most desiccation tolerant species (but only c. 4% in Tripogon jacquemontii)) compared with c. 2% of sucrose contents in the sensitive grass S. pyramidalis. Trehalose (a rare sugar in seed-plants)) was present in all but one desiccation tolerant species (Xerophyta villosa)) but only in minor amounts. The results are consistent with the views that sugars play a protective role during drying of desiccation tolerant plants in general but that other factors are also involved indesiccation tolerance, that in desiccation tolerant angiospermae sucrose is generally the predominant protective sugar and that raffinose and trehalose may supplement the role of sucrose.

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