Background and Aims A test was made of the hypothesis that the prostrate growth habit of the leaves of the geophyte Brunsvigia orientalis enables utilization of soil-derived CO2 and is related to the presence of lysigenous air-filled channels characteristic of B. orientalis leaves.Methods Brunvigia orientalis was sampled at a field site. Leaf anatomy, stomatal density, leaf/soil gas exchange characteristics and soil atmosphere and leaf delta C-13 isotope abundances were examined.Key Results The leaves of B. orientalis have large lysigenous air-filled channels separating the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves. The upper surface comprised approx. 70 % of the leaf mass and 75 % of the leaf N (mmol g(-1)). Between 20 % and 30 % of the stomatal conductance and CO2 assimilation was through the lower surface of the leaf. CO2 efflux rates from the soil surface were up to 5.4 mu mol m(-2) s(-1) while photosynthetic fluxes through the lower surface of the leaves were approx. 7 mu mol m(-2) s(-1). However, the utilization of soil-derived CO2 only altered the leaf delta C-13 isotope abundance of the prostrate leaves by a small amount. Using delta C-13 values it was estimated that 7 % of the leaf tissue C was derived from soil-derived CO2.Conclusions A small proportion of photosynthetically fixed CO2 was derived from the soil, with minimal associated transpirational H2O loss into the space between the leaf and soil. The soil-derived CO2, taken up through the lower surface was probably assimilated by the palisade tissue in the upper surface of the leaf which was exposed to sunlight and where most of the leaf N was located. The occurrence of lysigenous air channels in the leaves may provide longitudinal strength without impaired transfer of CO2 taken up through the lower surface to the upper surface.