Stomatal variability of native warm-season grasses from the Nebraska Sandhills

Tala Awada, Lowell E. Moser, Walter H. Schacht, Patrick E. Reece

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Soil moisture deficit is usually the major limiting factor for herbage production in the Sandhills of Nebraska. We examined inter-population and interspecific variability in stomatal characteristics and drought tolerance in sand bluestem (Andropogon hallii Vitman), little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash], prairie sandreed [Calamovilfa longifolia (Hook) Scribn.], and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.). Ramets were collected during the dormant season across an aridity gradient from east to west (ranging from 560 mm to 340 mm average annual precipitation) in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Plants were grown in individual pots under greenhouse conditions. Once plants were well established, stomatal characteristics were determined and stomatal conductance (gs) was measured through a dry-down period of no watering. Populations did not differ in stomatal characteristics across the gradient, except for stomatal density on the adaxial leaf surface of prairie sandreed and the abaxial leaf surface of sand bluestem. Leaves of switchgrass and prairie sandreed were amphistomatic (stomata on both leaf surfaces), whereas leaves of little bluestem and sand bluestem were hypostomatic (stomata on the lower leaf surface). In the absence of drought, gs was 17 to 31% higher in little bluestem than in other species. Differences among species in gs were found mainly when watered and disappeared as the dry-down progressed. There was a positive relationship between stomatal density and gs in all species except prairie sandreed. Prairie sandreed maintained 35% of the initial relative water content of its leaves after 17 d of dry-down, compared to 23% for sand bluestem, 14% for switchgrass, and 9% for little bluestem. Variation in stomatal traits within species did not explain ecotypic adaptation to sites with a range of precipitation in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-355
Number of pages7
JournalCanadian Journal of Plant Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Nebraska Sandhills
  • Stomatal characteristics
  • Warm season grasses
  • Water stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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