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Morphological and anatomical evaluation of adult and juvenile leaves of olive plants

Moreno-Alías, Inmaculada, León, Lorenzo, de la Rosa, Raúl, Rapoport, Hava F.
Trees 2009 v.23 no.1 pp. 181-187
seeds, trichomes, olives, trees, woody plants, Olea europaea, mesophyll, plant morphology, leaves
The olive tree (Olea europaea L.), like many other woody plants, has a long juvenile period in which the plant is not able to produce flowers. Knowledge of the moment when the plant is capable of flowering is important for breeding programs and also for determining the physiological basis for sexual reproductive behavior, but currently the only indicator of that moment is the actual flowering. In many species, the juvenile-to-adult phase shift includes changes in leaf structure known as heteroblasty, that is, varied form of successive leaves on the same plant. Some differences have been observed between juvenile and adult olive leaves, particularly in size and form, but to our knowledge, no complete systematic study has been carried out. In this research, we measured size, morphology and anatomy for juvenile and adult leaves of olive plants grown from seeds. Differences were found in most of the parameters studied, including leaf size, form, mesophyll thickness, layers of palisade parenchyma and quantity of peltate trichomes, which were generally significant but overlapping between the two leaf types. The most consistent and striking difference was the presence of an organized layer of subepidermal cells only in the abaxial mesophyll of adult leaves. This characteristic could be a simple and effective criterion of phase change in the olive tree.