Visualization of the stem water content of two genera with secondary phloem produced by sucessive cambia through Magnetic Resonance Imagine (MRI)
Shrubs and trees with secondary phloem tissue produced by successive cambia mainly occur in habitats characterized by a periodical or continuous lack of water availability. The amount of this secondary phloem tissue in stems of Avicennia trees rises with increasing soil water salinity and decreasing inundation frequency. Hence, increased water storage in secondary phloem tissue produced by successive cambia was put forward to be advantageous in harsh environmental conditions. It was however never tested whether the secondary phloem cells over the entire stem of woody species showing this wood anatomical feature are indeed water-filled as expected. In this preliminary and pioneering study, we use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to visualize the stem water content of three species with successive cambia, the mangroves Avicennia marina and A. officinalis and the non-mangrove Bougainvillea spectabilis. Measurements were conducted in living plants. We tested the hypothesis that not only the outermost phloem tissue has high water content but also the secondary phloem tissues over the entire stem from the bark inward to the pith, herewith serving as water storage sites. We can conclude that all secondary phloem tissue of both Bougainvillea and Avicenniahas high water contents. This aligns with the contribution of secondary phloem tissue produced by successive cambia to ecological success in conditions of physiological drought. Further study should however be done to understand the mechanisms through which this secondary phloem tissue contributes to the water household of plants in conditions of water shortage.