Morphological characteristics of the fruit, stem and leaf tissues of four species of Citrullus (L.) Schrad. were examined using standard histological methods. Plant materials included the cultivated watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai) and three of its related species (Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad., Citrullus ecirrhosus Cogn. and Citrullus rehmii de Winter). Variation among the species was observed in the thickness of the subepidermal layer(s) of the fruit, this layer being thicker in fruits of C. ecirrhosus (~ 200 uM) than in fruits of C. lanatus (~100 uM), C. colocynthis (~100 uM) or C. rehmii.(~100 µM). Variation was also observed in the extent and organization of the subtending sclerenchymatous cells which were up to 10 layers thick in fruits of C. colocynthis, 1 or 2 cell layers thick in the fruits of C. lanatus., and an intermediate number of layers (3 to 6) in fruits of C. ecirrhosus and C. rehmii. A greater degree of lignifications was observed in the stem tissue of C. colocynthis and C. ecirrhosus, in comparison with that of C. lanatus and C. rehmii. Leaf thickness (~250 µM) was similar among three of the four species examined, but was reduced in C. rehmii (~150 µM). Further study is required to assess the possible contribution of these, and other, morphological attributes to drought tolerance in members the genus Citrullus.
Key words: Watermelon, Citrullus lantatus, Citrullus colocynthis, Citrullus rehmii, Citrullus ecirrhosus, histology, anatomy, structure, drought tolerance, caudex, pollen viability.
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