The cuticular wax composition and crystal coverage of leaves and petals differ in a consistent manner between plant species

Sverre A Tunstad*, Ian D Bull, Sean A Rands, Heather M Whitney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Both leaves and petals are covered in a cuticle, which itself contains and is covered by, cuticular waxes. The waxes perform various roles in plants’ lives, and the cuticular composition of leaves has received much attention. To date, the cuticular composition of petals has been largely ignored. Being the outermost boundary between the plant and the environment, the cuticle is the first point of contact between a flower and a pollinator, yet we know little about how plant-pollinator interactions shape its chemical composition. Here, we investigate the general structure and composition of floral cuticular waxes by analysing the cuticular composition of leaves and petals of 49 plant species, representing 19 orders and 27 families. We show that the flowers of plants from across the phylogenetic range are nearly devoid of wax crystals, and that the total wax load of leaves in 90% of the species is higher than that of petals. The proportion of alkanes is higher, and the chain-lengths of the aliphatic compounds are shorter in petals than in leaves. We argue these differences are a result of the adaptation to the different roles leaves and petals play in plant biology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOpen Biology
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 Mar 2024

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