Why does Viola hondoensis (Violaceae) shed its winter leaves in spring?

Kouki Hikosaka, Yoshie Kawauchi, Takahide Kurosawa

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Premise of the study: Viola hondoensis is a perennial herb that inhabits the understory of temperate, deciduous forests. It is an evergreen plant with a leaf life span that is shorter than a year. Its summer leaves are produced in spring and shed in autumn; winter leaves are produced in autumn and shed in spring. Here we asked why the plant sheds its winter leaves in spring, though climate conditions improve from spring to summer. We proposed four hypotheses for the cause of shedding: (1) changes in seasonal environment such as day length or air temperature, (2) shading by canopy deciduous trees, (3) self-shading by taller summer leaves, and (4) competition for nutrients between summer and winter leaves. Methods: To test these hypotheses, we manipulated the environment of winter leaves: (1) plants were transplanted to the open site where there was no shading by canopy trees. (2) Petioles of summer leaves were anchored to the soil surface to avoid shad- ing of winter leaves. (3) Sink organs were removed to eliminate nutrient competition. Key results: Longevity of winter leaves was extended when shading by summer leaves was eliminated and when sink organs were removed, but not when plants were transplanted to the open site. Conclusion: We conclude that the relative difference in light availability between summer and winter leaves is a critical factor for regulation of leaf shedding, consistent with the theory of maximization of the whole-plant photosynthesis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1944-1950
    Number of pages7
    JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 2010 Dec


    • Canopy structure
    • Leaf phenology
    • Leaf senescence
    • Leaf turnover
    • Optimization theory
    • Self-shading
    • Viola hon-doensis
    • Violaceae

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Genetics
    • Plant Science


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