The Physiology of Landscape Establishment of Kalmia latifolia

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Title: The Physiology of Landscape Establishment of Kalmia latifolia
Author: Wright, Amy Noelle
Advisors: Stuart L. Warren, Committee Co-Chair
Frank A. Blazich, Committee Co-Chair
Thomas G. Ranney, Committee Member
Udo Blum, Committee Member
Abstract: Although native to the eastern United States, with a broad geographic range, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia L.) frequently does not survive transplanting from containers into the landscape and is generally regarded as a difficult-to-transplant species. In an effort to understand poor transplant success and to improve landscape establishment of the species, four experiments were conducted to describe some of the critical factors associated with transplanting mountain laurel. In some cases, research included comparison of mountain laurel to that of an easy-to-transplant species, Japanese holly (Ilex crenata Thunb.). In the first study, root growth of mountain laurel was compared to that of Japanese holly over the course of 1 year. Root length and root surface area of mountain laurel increased in the fall but decreased in the spring, while root length and root surface area of Japanese holly increased linearly throughout the year. Root : shoot ratio increased linearly for Japanese holly but did not increase during the spring for mountain laurel. The second study compared the effects of root-zone temperature on root growth of mountain laurel and Japanese holly. When mountain laurel and Japanese holly were grown hydroponically in the fall and the spring at 9 hour days/15 hour nights of 26/22C with root-zone temperatures of 16, 24, or 32C, percent increase in root length and root surface area were highest at 16C for mountain laurel and 24C for Japanese holly. At each root-zone temperature, percent survival was higher for Japanese holly than mountain laurel. More root growth occurred in the fall than in the spring for both species. Root : shoot ratio of mountain laurel was higher in the fall than in the spring, whereas root : shoot ratio of Japanese holly was similar for both seasons. A third investigation compared drought tolerance of mountain laurel to that of Japanese holly. In response to several drought treatments, shoot dry weight decreased more rapidly with increasing drought stress for mountain laurel than Japanese holly. Pre-dawn plant water potential decreased faster for mountain laurel than Japanese holly. Although both species appeared to osmotically adjust, mountain laurel was less drought tolerant than Japanese holly. Osmotic adjustment occurred only in more severely stressed plants. The fourth experiment investigated the influence of root : shoot ratio on survival and subsequent growth of transplanted, container-grown mountain laurel. Landscape exposure and initial root : shoot ratio of transplanted mountain laurel influenced plant survival and growth over three growing seasons. Shoot growth (stems and leaves) and visual quality were highest for plants with largest initial root : shoot ratio. In general, plant growth, survival, and visual ratings were higher on north and east exposures than on south and west exposures.
Date: 2002-05-10
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Horticultural Science

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