Delayed greening in phosphorus-efficient Hakea prostrata (Proteaceae) is a photoprotective and nutrient-saving strategy

Thirumurugen Kuppusamy, Dorothee Hahne, Kosala Ranathunge, Hans Lambers, Patrick M. Finnegan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Hakea prostrata R.Br. (Proteaceae) shows a 'delayed greening' strategy of leaf development characterised by reddish young leaves that become green as they mature. This trait may contribute to efficient use of phosphorus (P) during leaf development by first investing P in the development of leaf structure followed by maturation of the photosynthetic machinery. In this study, we investigated the properties of delayed greening in a highly P-efficient species to enhance our understanding of the ecological significance of this trait as a nutrient-saving and photoprotective strategy. In glasshouse-grown plants, we assessed foliar pigments, fatty acids and nutrient composition across five leaf developmental stages. Young leaves had higher concentrations of anthocyanin, P, nitrogen (N), copper (Cu), xanthophyll-cycle pigments and saturated fatty acids than mature leaves. As leaves developed, the concentration of anthocyanins decreased, whereas that of chlorophyll and the double bond index of fatty acids increased. In mature leaves, ∼60% of the fatty acids was α-linolenic acid (C18:3 n-3). Mature leaves also had higher concentrations of aluminium (Al), calcium (Ca) and manganese (Mn) than young leaves. We conclude that delayed greening in H. prostrata is a strategy that saves P as well as N and Cu through sequential allocation of these resources, first to cell production and structural development, and then to supplement chloroplast development. This strategy also protects young leaves against photodamage and oxidative stress during leaf expansion under high-light conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-230
Number of pages13
JournalFunctional Plant Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


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