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    Author(s): K. K. Christensen-Dalsgaard; M. T. Tyree; P. G. Mussone
    Date: 2011
    Source: Tree Physiology
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Northern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (850.0 KB)


    In plant physiology models involving bubble nucleation, expansion or elimination, it is typically assumed that the surface tension of xylem sap is equal to that of pure water, though this has never been tested. In this study we collected xylem sap from branches of the tree species Populus tremuloides, Betula papyrifera and Sorbus aucuparia over 3 months. We measured the instantaneous surface tension and followed changes over a period of 0.5–5 h using the pendant drop technique. In all three species the instantaneous surface tension was equal to or within a few percent of that of pure water. Further, in B. papyrifera and S. aucuparia the change over time following drop establishment, although significant, was very small. In P. tremuloides, however, there was a steep decline in surface tension over time that leveled off towards values 21–27% lower than that of pure water. This indicated the presence of surfactants. The values were lower for thinner distal branch segments than for proximal ones closer to the trunk. In some species it appears valid to assume that the surface tension of xylem sap is equal to that of water. However, in branch segments of P. tremuloides close to the terminal bud and hence potentially in other species as well, it may be necessary to take into account the presence of surfactants that reduce the surface tension over time.

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    ​Christensen-Dalsgaard, Karen K.; Tyree, Melvin T.; Mussone, Paolo G. 2011. Surface tension phenomena in the xylem sap of three diffuse porous temperate tree species. Tree Physiology. 31(4): 361-368.


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    pendant drop, surface tension, surfactants, temperate trees, xylem sap

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