Seasonal patterns of photosynthesis and respiration of single leaves of four understory perennial herbs in deciduous forests were investigated in relation to their leaf growth and light conditions on the forest floor. Anemone flaccida shows rapid growth of leaf area and high rates of gross photosynthesis at light saturation (Psat) in its early stage of development. Its photosynthetic activity is restricted to a brief period of high light intensity before the closure of overstory canopies. Disporum smilacinum possesses light-photosynthesis curves of the shade-leaf type throughout its whole growing period. A shading experiment has shown that this plant is low-light adapted and can utilize weak light efficiently. The light-photosynthesis curve of Syneilesis palmata shifts from the sun-leaf type to the shade-leaf type in response to the seasonal change of light regime on the forest floor. Evergreen leaves of Pyrola japonica have three year longevity, and light-photosynthesis curves of the shade-leaf type. They maintain some photosynthetic activity even in late autumn and winter.
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