General models of plant vascular architecture, based on scaling of pipe diameters to remove the length dependence of hydraulic resistance within the xylem, have attracted strong interest. However, these models have neglected to consider the leaf, an important hydraulic component; they assume all leaves to have similar hydraulic properties, including similar pipe diameters in the petiole. We examine the scaling of the leaf xylem in 10 temperate oak species, an important hydraulic component. The mean hydraulic diameter of petiole xylem vessels varied by 30% among the 10 oak species. Conduit diameters narrowed from the petiole to the midrib to the secondary veins, consistent with resistance minimization, but the power function scaling exponent differed from that predicted for stems. Leaf size was an organizing trait within and across species. These findings indicate that leaf vasculature needs to be included in whole-plant scaling models, for these to accurately reflect and predict whole-plant transport and its implications for performance and ecology.
Keywords: tapering, xylem vessels, hydraulic resistance, scaling relationships, allometry, stomatal density