Poikilohydry and homoihydry: Antithesis or spectrum of possibilities?

Michael C.F. Proctor, Zoltán Tuba

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

254 Citations (Scopus)


Plants have followed two principal (and contrasting) strategies of adaptation to the irregular supply of water on land, which are closely bound up with scale. Vascular plants evolved internal transport from the soil to the leafy canopy (but their 'homoihydry' is far from absolute, and some are desiccation tolerant (DT)). Bryophytes depended on desiccation tolerance, suspending metabolism when water was not available; their cells are generally either fully turgid or desiccated. Desiccation tolerance requires preservation intact through drying-re-wetting cycles of essential cell components and their functional relationships, and controlled cessation and restarting of metabolism. In many bryophytes and some vascular plants tolerance is essentially constitutive. In other vascular plants (particularly poikilochlorophyllous species) and some bryophytes tolerance is induced by water stress. Desiccation tolerance is adaptively optimal on hard substrates impenetrable to roots, and on poor dry soils in seasonally dry climates. DT vascular plants are commonest in warm semiarid climates; DT mosses and lichens occur from tropical to polar regions. DT plants vary widely in their inertia to changing water content. Some mosses and lichens dry out and recover within an hour or less; vascular species typically respond on a time scale of one to a few days.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-349
Number of pages23
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2002


  • Adaptive strategies
  • Bryophytes
  • Desiccation tolerance
  • Ectohydry and endohydry
  • Poikilochlorophylly
  • Pteridophytes
  • Resurrection plants
  • Water stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science

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