Measurement of leaf longevity of 14 species of grasses and forbs using a novel approach

J. M. Craine, D. M. Berin, P. B. Reich, D. G. Tilman, J. M.H. Knops

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40 Scopus citations


Grasses and forbs are often classified into separate functional types, although systematic differences between the types have only been verified for a few functional traits. Since leaf longevity has been shown to be a key trait linking plant ecophysiology, whole-plant growth and ecosystem resource cycling, we compared the leaf longevity of 14 species to determine if there were consistent differences between grasses and forbs or other functional classifications, such as persistence of leaves into winter. Leaf longevity was assessed in 6-yr-old monoculture plots in central North America by tagging and sequentially monitoring the phenological states of whole forb leaves and sections of grass leaves. This new approach enables a calculation of leaf longevity unbiased by the manner in which grass leaves grow and provides a more accurate comparison between grasses and forbs. Lupinus perennis had the shortest leaf longevity (4 wk) and Koeleria cristata, Poa pratensis, and Solidago rigida the longest (13-14 wk). Average leaf longevity for the 14 species was c. 9 wk, with no significant differences between grasses and forbs nor between current alternative functional classifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-481
Number of pages7
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Cedar Creek
  • Forb
  • Grass
  • Leaf longevity
  • Phenology
  • Plant functional type


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