Surface tension, wettability and stomatal morphology vs. penetration of stomata by liquids


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Tradescantia zebrina ‘Purpusii’

Penetration of stomata by liquids: dependence on surface tension, wettability, and stomatal morphology

by Schönherr J., Bukovac M.J. (1972)

Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48823.

in Plant Physiol. 1972 May; 49(5): 813-819. – PMID: 16658054 PMCID: PMC366058


Wettability of the leaf surface, surface tension of the liquid, and stomatal morphology control penetration of stomata by liquids.

The critical surface tension of the lower leaf surface of Zebrina purpusii Brückn. was estimated to be 25 to 30 dyne cm(-1). Liquids having a surface tension less than 30 dyne cm(-1) gave zero contact angle on the leaf surface and infiltrated stomata spontaneously while liquids having a surface tension greater than 30 dyne cm(-1) did not wet the leaf surface and failed to infiltrate stomata.

Considering stomata as conical capillaries, we were able to show that with liquids giving a finite contact angle, infiltration depended solely on the relationship between the magnitude of the contact angle and the wall angle of the aperture.

Generally, spontaneous infiltration of stomata will take place when the contact angle is smaller than the wall angle of the aperture wall.

The degree of stomatal opening (4, 6, 8, or 10 mum) was of little importance. Cuticular ledges present at the entrance to the outer vestibule and between the inner vestibule and substomatal chamber resulted in very small if not zero wall angles, and thus played a major role in excluding water from the intercellular space of leaves.

We show why the degree of stomatal opening cannot be assessed by observing spontaneous infiltration of stomata by organic liquids of low surface tension.



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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