Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Herbivore damage, resource richness and putative defences in juvenile versus adult Eucalyptus leaves

Emma K. Gras A , Jennifer Read A C , Chantal T. Mach A B , Gordon D. Sanson A and Fiona J. Clissold A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Vic. 3800, Australia.

B Université Pierre et Marie Curie Paris VI, France.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Botany 53(1) 33-44
Submitted: 30 March 2004  Accepted: 7 October 2004   Published: 18 February 2005


Eucalyptus species often show marked differences in morphology and ecophysiology between adult and juvenile leaves. Given these differences, it was hypothesised that juvenile and adult leaves would present different levels of resources to a herbivore, and potentially different levels of putative anti-herbivore defences. This hypothesis was tested in some eucalypts growing in native forest in south-eastern Australia.

There were no significant differences in levels of water, protein or carbohydrates (per unit dry weight) between mature adult and juvenile leaves. No difference was recorded in concentration of total phenolics between leaf forms, but more protein was precipitated (an estimate of tannin activity) in extracts from juvenile leaves. Cyanogenic glycosides were absent from mature leaves, but present in young leaves of both leaf forms in E. polyanthemos. No significant difference in concentration of any terpene was recorded between adult and juvenile leaves in E. nitens and E. regnans. Specific leaf area was lower in adult leaves, and fibre concentration was higher in adult leaves of some species, suggesting that resources in the adult leaf may be less accessible to a herbivore. However, there was no difference in leaf toughness between leaf forms, even though toughness per unit leaf thickness was higher in juvenile leaves. Hence, no major trends in resource concentration were apparent between the leaf forms, and of the defences investigated, only tannin activity varied significantly between the leaf forms.


We thank Peter West and Scott Metcalf of Forestry Victoria (Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE)) for advice on locations of species, and for facilitating access to areas of the Tanjil State Forest, and DSE for permission to collect native flora. We thank Tony Patti, Peter Neville-Jones and John Beardall for advice on analysis of terpenes, and John Beardall for use of his GCMS.


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