Mechanical behaviour analyses of sap ascent in vascular plants

J Biol Phys. 2010 Sep;36(4):355-63. doi: 10.1007/s10867-010-9189-1. Epub 2010 May 6.


A pure mechanical anisotropic model of a tree trunk has been developed based on the 3D finite element method. It simulates the microscopic structure of vessels in the trunk of a European beech (Fagus sylvatica) in order to study and analyse its mechanical behaviour with different configurations of pressures in the conduits of xylem and phloem. The dependence of the strains at the inner bark was studied when sap pressure changed. The comparison with previously published experimental data leads to the conclusion that a great tensile stress-or 'negative pressure'-must exist in the water column in order to achieve the measured strains if only the mechanical point of view is taken into account. Moreover, the model can help to design experiments where qualitatively knowing the strains and the purely mechanical behaviour of the tree is required.

Keywords: Biomechanics; Cavitation; Finite element; Mechanics of a trunk; Negative pressure; Sap ascent; Sap pressure; Strains in a trunk; Water column stress.