Hydraulic design of pine needles: One-dimensional optimization for single-vein leaves

Maciej A. Zwieniecki, Howard A. Stone, Andrea Leigh, C. Kevin Boyce, N. Michele Holbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Single-vein leaves have the simplest hydraulic design possible, yet even this linear water delivery system can be modulated to improve physiological performance. We determined the optimal distribution of transport capacity that minimizes pressure drop per given investment in xylem permeability along the needle for a given length without a change in total water delivery, or maximizes needle length for a given pressure difference between petiole and needle tip. This theory was tested by comparative analysis of the hydraulic design of three pine species that differ in the length of their needles [Pinus palustris (Engl.) Miller, ∼50 cm; Pinus ponderosa Lawson & Lawson, ∼20 cm and Pinus rigida Miller, ∼5 cm]. In all three species, the distribution of hydraulic permeability was similar to that predicted by the optimum solution. The needles of P. palustris showed an almost perfect match between predicted and actual hydraulic optimum solution, providing evidence that vein design is a significant factor in the hydraulic design of pine leaves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-809
Number of pages7
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


  • Model
  • Tracheids
  • Xylem


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