Angiosperm trees produce tension wood to actively control their vertical position. Tension wood has often been characterised by the presence of an unlignified inner fibre wall layer called the G-layer. Using this definition, previous reports indicate that only one-third of all tree species have tension wood with G-layers. Here we aim to (i) describe the large diversity of tension wood anatomy in tropical tree species, taking advantage of the recent understanding of tension wood anatomy and (ii) explore any link between this diversity and other ecological traits of the species. We sampled tension wood and normal wood in 432 trees from 242 species in French Guiana. The samples were observed using safranin and astra blue staining combined with optical microscopy. Species were assigned to four anatomical groups depending on the presence/absence of G-layers, and their degree of lignification. The groups were analysed for functional traits including wood density and light preferences. Eighty-six% of the species had G-layers in their tension wood which was lignified in most species, with various patterns of lignification. Only a few species did not have G-layers. We found significantly more species with lignified G-layers among shade-tolerant and shade-demanding species as well as species with a high wood density. Our results bring up-to-date the incidence of species with/without G-layers in the tropical lowland forest where lignified G-layers are the most common anatomy of tension wood. Species without G-layers may share a common mechanism with the bark motor taking over the wood motor. We discuss the functional role of lignin in the G-layer.

In: IAWA Journal