Fire, frost, and drought constrain the structural diversity of wood within southern African Erica (Ericaceae)

F. M. Akinlabi, M. D. Pirie, A. A. Oskolski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Erica comprises ∼860 species of evergreen shrubs and trees ranged from Europe to southern Africa and Madagascar. Wood structure of the around 20 European species is well studied, but despite its relevance to adaptation across the wider geographic range, it has not yet been explored across the much greater diversity, particularly of southern African lineages. In this study, we examine wood structure of 28 Erica species from southern Africa. In the African Erica clade, loss of scalariform perforation plates could be driven by increased aridity and seasonality in the mid-Miocene, and its re-gain can represent an adaptation to freezing in the high elevation species E. nubigena. As vessels in Erica are mostly solitary, imperforate tracheary elements probably form a subsidiary conduit network instead of vessel groups. Increase of ray frequency in habitats with a prominent dry and hot season probably facilitates refilling of vessels after embolism caused by water stress. Wider rays are ancestral for the lineage comprising African Erica and the Mediterranean E. australis. The negative correlation between ray width and expression of summer drought is consistent with Ojeda's model explaining the diversification of seeders and resprouters among southern African Erica.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-389
Number of pages20
JournalBotanical Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • Calluna
  • Cape Floristic Region
  • Daboecia
  • Ericeae
  • fire response
  • fynbos
  • resprouters
  • seeders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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