Foliar water uptake: Processes, pathways, and integration into plant water budgets

Z. Carter Berry, Nathan C. Emery, Sybil G. Gotsch, Gregory R. Goldsmith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Nearly all plant families, represented across most major biomes, absorb water directly through their leaves. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as foliar water uptake. Recent studies have suggested that foliar water uptake provides a significant water subsidy that can influence both plant water and carbon balance across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Despite this, our mechanistic understanding of when, where, how, and to what end water is absorbed through leaf surfaces remains limited. We first review the evidence for the biophysical conditions necessary for foliar water uptake to occur, focusing on the plant and atmospheric water potentials necessary to create a gradient for water flow. We then consider the different pathways for uptake, as well as the potential fates of the water once inside the leaf. Given that one fate of water from foliar uptake is to increase leaf water potentials and contribute to the demands of transpiration, we also provide a quantitative synthesis of observed rates of change in leaf water potential and total fluxes of water into the leaf. Finally, we identify critical research themes that should be addressed to effectively incorporate foliar water uptake into traditional frameworks of plant water movement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-423
Number of pages14
JournalPlant Cell and Environment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments, John Abatzoglou for building and extracting data from the TerraClimate database for Figure 1, and Aaron Ramirez for providing unpublished data. SGG was supported by funding from Franklin and Marshall College and the National Science Foundation (IOS Award #1556289). ZCB was supported by a fellowship from the Grand Challenges Initiative at Chapman University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • hydraulic pathways
  • leaf wetness
  • plant water balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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