Fructan dynamics in the underground organs of Chresta exsucca (Asteraceae), a dry season flowering species

ABSTRACT Climatic seasonality has an influence on the phenology of native Cerrado plants. Herbs and subshrubs tend to flower in the rainy season, although some species of these habits flower in the dry season. Reserve carbohydrates, stored in the underground organs, are used to support phases of high energy-demand, but also may protect plants from damage during periods of environmental limitation. In this study we evaluated variation in fructan levels in the underground organs of field-grown plants of Chresta exsucca among different phenological phases. Chresta exsucca flowers in the dry season and possesses a diffuse underground system, which stores inulin-type fructans. Resprouting was continual during the sampling period. Oligosaccharide content was always higher than polysaccharide content, except during senescence, the only phase with an oligosaccharide: polysaccharide ratio < 1. Fructan accumulation occurred during vegetative growth until flowering. Fructan mobilization was prominent during resprouting until the beginning of vegetative growth. Fructans stored in the underground organs of C. exsucca serve to fulfill the energetic demands of development and maintenance of this complex structure. In this way, fructans are essential to the persistence of this species in the environment of the Cerrado by ensuring reproduction in harsh conditions, such as drought.