Physiol Plant 2011 Jan 2;141(1):30-9. Epub 2010 Nov 2.
Key Laboratory of Economic Plants and Biotechnology, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650204, China.
There is a close phylogenetic relationship between Paphiopedilum and Cypripedium, but these two genera diverge considerably in terms of their leaf traits. To understand the evolution and the ecophysiological significance of leaf traits, we investigated the leaf traits of three Paphiopedilum species and three Cypripedium species in southwestern China. Cypripedium tibeticum and C. flavum showed a significantly higher light-saturated photosynthetic rate (P(max) ), stomatal conductance (g(s) ), photosynthetic nitrogen utilization efficiency (PNUE) and specific leaf area (SLA), but lower ratio of leaf carbon to nitrogen content (C/N) and leaf construction cost (CC) than Paphiopedilum. These leaf traits of Cypripedium suggest its high resource use efficiency and high growth rate reflecting adaptation to a short growing period and abundant soil nutrients and water in alpine habitats. Conversely, the low P(max) , g(s) , PNUE, SLA and the ratio of chlorophyll a to chlorophyll b (Chl a/b), but high leaf nitrogen investment in light-harvesting component (P(L) ), CC and C/N in Paphiopedilum indicate its adaptation to a low light, nutrient-poor and limited soil water habitats in karst areas. As a sympatric species of Paphiopedilum, although C. lentiginosum retained the phylogenetic leaf traits of Cypripedium, such as high mass-based light-saturated photosynthetic rate (P(max-M) ), g(s) and PNUE, it had some similar leaf traits to those of Paphiopedilum, such as low mesophyll conductance (g(m) ) and Chl a/b, and high P(L) , which reflected an adaptation to the same habitat. Our results show that the evolution of the leaf traits of Paphiopedilum and Cypripedium are shaped by both phylogeny and environment.