Photosynthetic Light Utilization Efficiency, Water Relations and Leaf Growth of C3 and CAM Tropical Orchids under Natural Conditions


Native orchid species of Singapore in their natural conditions experience stress from high irradiance, high temperatures and periods of extended low rainfall, which impact orchid plant physiology and lead to reduced growth and productivity. In this study, it was found that there was a reduction in photochemical efficiency of photosystem II (PSII) in 6 native orchid species under high light (HL) and Bulbophyllum membranaceum under low light (LL). There was chronic photoinhibition in these 6 orchid species over a period of 3 months after transplanting onto the tree trunks without watering and fertilization, especially in Coelogynes mayeriana and Bulbophyllum membranaceum under both HL and LL. This chronic photoinhibition caused by sustained period of water deficit in their natural conditions was later reversed by natural re-watering conditions from higher rainfall. These results indicate that water deficit has a greater impact on photosynthetic light utilization efficiency than excess light. The present study also showed that after natural rewatering, relative water content (RWC) of leaves and pseudobulbs generally increased. During the natural re-watering, total leaf area also gradually increased and reached maximum expansion after 7 weeks under both HL and LL, with some exceptions due to leaf abscission or decline in total leaf area, possibly a strategy for water conservation.

Share and Cite:

Tay, S. , He, J. and Yam, T. (2015) Photosynthetic Light Utilization Efficiency, Water Relations and Leaf Growth of C3 and CAM Tropical Orchids under Natural Conditions. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 6, 2949-2959. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2015.618290.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Yam, T.W. (2013) Native Orchids of Singapore: Diversity, Identification and Conservation. National Parks Board, Singapore.
[2] Yam, T.W., et al. (2011) Conservation and Reintroduction of Native Orchids of Singapore—The Next Phase. European Journal of Environmental Sciences, 1, 38-47.
[3] Yam, T.W. and Thame, A. (2005) Conservation and Reintroduction of the Native Orchids of Singapore. Selbyana, 26, 75-80.
[4] Benzing, D. (1998) Vulnerabilities of Tropical Forests to Climate Change: The Significance of Resident Epiphytes. Climatic Change, 39, 519-540.
[5] He, J., Khoo, G.H. and Hew, C.S. (1998) Susceptibility of CAM Dendrobium Leaves and Flowers to High Light and High Temperature under Natural Tropical Conditions. Environmental and Experimental Botany, 40, 255-264.
[6] He, J. and Teo, L.C.D. (2007) Susceptibility of Green Leaves and Green Flower Petals of CAM Orchid Dendrobium cv. Burana Jade to High Irradiance under Natural Tropical Conditions. Photosynthetica, 45, 214-221.
[7] Lichtenthaler, H.K., Buschmann, C., Döll, M., Fietz, H.-J., Bach, T., Kozel, U., et al. (1981) Photosynthetic Activity, Chloroplast Ultrastructure, and Leaf Characteristics of High-Light and Low-Light Plants and of Sun and Shade Leaves. Photosynthesis Research, 2, 115-141.
[8] Chow, W.S. (1994) Photoprotection and Photoinhibitory Damage. In: Bittar, E.E. and Barber, J. Eds., Advances in Molecular and Cell Biology, Elsevier, London, 151-196.
[9] Osmond, C.B. (1994) What Is Photoinhibition? Some Insights from Comparisons of Shade and Sun Plants. Bios Scientific Publication, Oxford.
[10] Johnson, S.R. (1993) Photosynthesis and Aspects of Phenology of the Rapidly Dispersing Orchid Oeceoclades maculata. Lindleyana, 8, 69-72.
[11] Stancato, G.C., Mazzafera, P. and Buckeridge, M.S. (2001) Effect of a Drought Period on the Mobilisation of Non-Structural Carbohydrates, Photosynthetic Efficiency and Water Status in an Epiphytic Orchid. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, 39, 1009-1016.
[12] Pinheiro, C. and Chaves, M.M. (2011) Photosynthesis and Drought: Can We Make Metabolic Connections from Available Data? Journal of Experimental Botany, 62, 869-882.
[13] Turner, N.C. and Jones, M.M. (1980) Turgor Maintenance by Osmotic Adjustment: A Review and Evaluation. In: Turner, N.C. and Kramer, P.J., Eds., Adaptation of Plants to Water and High Temperature Stress, Willey & Sons, New York, 87-103.
[14] Lüttge, U., Ball, E., Fetene, M. and Medina, E. (1991) Flexibility of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism in Kalanchoe Pinnata (Lam.) Pers. I. Response to Irradiance and Supply of Nitrogen and Water. Journal of Plant Physiology, 137, 259-267.
[15] Cameron, K.M., Chase, M.W., Whitten, W.M., Kores, P.J., Jarrell, D.C., Albert, V.A., et al. (1999) A Phylogenetic Analysis of the Orchidaceae: Evidence from rbcL Nucleotide Sequences. American Journal of Botany, 86, 208-224.
[16] Adams III, W.W. and Osmond, C.B. (1988) Internal CO2 Supply during Photosynthesis of Sun and Shade Grown CAM Plants in Relation to Photo Inhibition. Plant Physiology, 86, 117-123.
[17] Benzing, D.H. (1989) The Evolution of Epiphytism. In: Lüttge, U., Ed., Vascular Plants as Epiphytes: Evolution and Ecophysiology, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 15-41.
[18] Silvera, K., Santiago, L.S., Cushman, J.C. and Winter, K. (2009) Crassulacean Acid Metabolism and Epiphytism Linked to Adaptive Radiations in the Orchidaceae. Plant Physiology, 149, 1838-1847.
[19] Silvera, K., Santiago, L.S., Cushman, J.C. and Winter, K. (2010) The Incidence of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism in Orchidaceae Derived from Carbon Isotope Ratios: A Checklist of the Flora of Panama and Costa Rica. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 163, 194-222.
[20] Arditti, J. and Woolhuse, W.H. (1980) Aspects of the Physiology of Orchids. In: Woolhouse, H., Ed., Advances in Botanical Research, Academic Press, London, 421-655.
[21] Hew, C.S. and Yong, J.W.H. (2004) The Physiology of Tropical Orchids in Relation to the Industry. World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., Singapore.
[22] Neales, T.F. and Hew, C.S. (1975) Two Types of Carbon Fixation in Tropical Orchids. Planta, 123, 303-306.
[23] Schneider, C.A., Rasband, W.S. and Eliceiri, K.W. (2012) NIH Image to Image J: 25 Years of Image Analysis. Nature Methods, 9, 671-675.
[24] Ort, D.R. (2001) When There Is Too Much Light. Plant Physiology, 125, 29-32.
[25] Ding, T.H., Ong, H.T. and Yong, H.C. (1980) Factors Affecting Flower Development and Production of Golden Shower (Oncidium goldiana). Proceedings of the 3rd ASEAN Orchid Congress, Kuala Lumper, 22-26 August, 65-78.
[26] He, J., Norhafis, H. and Qin, L. (2013) Responses of Green Leaves and Green Pseudobulbs of CAM Orchid Cattleya laeliocattleya Aloha Case to Drought Stress. Journal of Botany, 2013, 1-9.
[27] He, J., Yong, T.Z. and Yam, T.W. (2014) Orchid Conservation in Singapore under Natural Conditions: Responses of Grammatophyllum speciosum to Growth Irradiances. Plant Science International, 1, 11-23.
[28] Tan, S.H.G. (2012) Photosynthetic Characteristics of Green Leaves and Green Pseudobulbs of Coelogyne rochussenii Orchid and Their Responses to Different Growth Irradiance and Drought Stress. National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
[29] Wang, S.Z. (2007) Effects of Growth Irradiance and Virus Infection on the Physiology of C3 Oncidium and CAM Phalaenopsis Orchids under Natural Tropical Conditions. National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
[30] Anderson, J.M., Park, Y.I. and Chow, W.S. (1997) Photoinactivation and Photoprotection of Photosystem II in Nature. Physiologia Plantarum, 100, 214-223.
[31] Zotz, G. and Tyree, M. (1996) Water Stress in the Epiphytic Orchid, Dimerandra emarginata (G. Meyer) Hoehne. Oecologia, 107, 151-159.
[32] Zotz, G. and Winter, K. (1994) Annual Carbon Balance and Nitrogen-Use Efficiency in Tropical C3 and CAM Epiphytes. New Phytologist, 126, 481-492.
[33] Ashraf, M. (2010) Inducing Drought Tolerance in Plants: Recent Advances. Biotechnology Advances, 28, 169-183.
[34] Cornic, G. and Fresneau, C. (2002) Photosynthetic Carbon Reduction and Carbon Oxidation Cycles Are the Main Electron Sinks for Photosystem II Activity during a Mild Drought. Annals of Botany, 89, 887-894.
[35] Haag-Kerwer, A., Franco, A.C. and Luttge, U. (1992) The Effect of Temperature and Light on Gas Exchange and Acid Accumulation in the C3-CAM Plant Clusia minor L. Journal of Experimental Botany, 43, 345-352.
[36] Rodrigues, M.A., et al. (2013) Spatial Patterns of Photosynthesis in Thin- and Thick-Leaved Epiphytic Orchids: Unravelling C3-CAM Plasticity in an Organ-Compartmented Way. Annals of Botany, 112, 17-29.
[37] Goh, C.J. and Kluge, M. (1989) Gas Exchange and Water Relations in Epiphytic Orchids. In: Lüttge, U., Ed., Vascular Plants as Epiphytes, Evolution and Ecophysiology, Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, 139-166.
htt0.1007 p://
[38] Sinclair, R. (1983) Water Relations of Tropical Epiphytes: I. Relationships between Stomatal Resistance, Relative Water Content and the Components of Water Potential. Journal of Experimental Botany, 34, 1652-1663.
[39] Sinclair, R. (1983) Water Relations of Tropical Epiphytes: II. Performance during Droughting. Journal of Experimental Botany, 34, 1664-1675.
[40] Chiang, Y.-L. and Chen, Y.-R. (1968) Observations on Pleione formosana Hayata. Taiwania, 14, 271-301.
[41] Ertelt, J.B. (1992) Horticultural Aspects of Growing and Displaying a Wide Variety of Epiphytes. Selbyana, 13, 95-98.
[42] Stern, W.L. and Morris, M.W. (1992) Vegetative Anatomy of Stanhopea (Orchidaceae) with Special Reference to Pseudobulb Water-Storage Cells. Lindleyana, 7, 34-53.
[43] Zheng, X.N., et al. (1992) Response of Cymbidium Sinense to Drought Stress. The Journal of Horticultural Science & Biotechnology, 67, 295-300.
[44] Yam, T.W. (2011) Conservation and Reintroduction of the Native Epiphytic Orchids of Singapore—A Physiological and Developmental Biology Perspective. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Biological Science, Faculty of Biology Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, 2-9.

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.