Water deficit stress responses of three herbaceous native Australian ornamental species

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American Society for Horticultural Science

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Perennial wildflower species are important but not well-understood elements in water-wise landscaping that anchors urban water conservation programs in arid climates. Comparative growth and physiological responses to soil substrate drying of three herbaceous Australian ornamental species from habitats of variable moisture regimes were investigated in the context of isohydric and anisohydric behavior. Clonal Orthosiphon aristatus, Dianella revoluta ‘Breeze’, and Ptilotus nobilis plants were container-grown individually and competitively together in two separate studies. In both studies, plants were water-stressed through cyclical dry downs. We measured stomatal conductance (g S), soil water content, and water potential during each study and osmotic adjustment estimated from pressure-volume data and plant biomass at the end of each study. O. aristatus, a rainforest species, fit a general anisohydric model of high water use and more negative water potential during soil drying until stomatal closure and leaf wilting. D. revolata and P. nobilis, indigenous to Australia's dry interior, fit a general isohydric, drought-tolerant model of stomatal closure from water deficits that moderates leaf water potential but through different mechanisms. P. nobilis and D. revolata moderate water use and maintain acceptable aesthetic performance under water stress, suitable for mixed low-water landscape plantings. O. aristatus would not be suitable for low-water urban landscapes, either isolated or in mixed plantings, because of high soil water depletion and wilting.

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