In the Karoo of South Africa, do plants with succulent fruits have foliage rich in potassium relative to nitrogen?

(writing in progress)

I have observed that succulent fruit-pulp is rich in potassium relative to other nutrients ( and

If so, do plants with succulent fruits have foliage unusually rich in potassium relative to nitrogen?

I have previously found that plants with fleshy fruits have foliar concentrations of: potassium >1.9
%, nitrogen >1.5%.

ratios of potassium/nitrogen

In this Post, I test this by reviewing the values reported in the literature, for the Karoo ( in South Africa.

My finding is that the answer is no. This is perhaps partly because plants with succulent fruits in the Karoo are rich in nitrogen, relative to other ecosystems.

Then following is a summary of the mean percentages (concentration on a dry matter basis), by categories. In each case the numerator refers to potassium, and the denominator refers to nitrogen.

GRASSES 1.0/1.3
DAISIES 1.5/1.0
LEGUMES 1.0/2.2

My commentary:
Plants with succulent fruits, of which Lycium is an example, have foliage that is rather rich in potassium. However, the corresponding concentrations of nitrogen are also rather great. Thus, the ratio of potassium to nitrogen remains modest.

Asteraceae in Karoo:

98 samples

Crude protein mean 9.58%
Nitrogen mean 1.53%
Potassium mean 1.52%
Potassium/nitrogen ratio 0.99

Legumes in Karoo

6 samples

Crude protein mean 13.73%
Nitrogen mean 2.2%
Potassium mean 0.96%
Potassium/nitrogen ratio 0.44

Grasses in Karoo

49 samples

Crude protein mean 7.826%
Nitrogen mean 1.252%
Potassium mean 0.9844% (range 0.14-3.79%)
Potassium/nitrogen ratio 0.786


In Karoo vegetation, potassium/nitrogen ratios are succulent foliage > daisies > grasses and plants with succulent fruits > legumes.

It is remarkable that virtually no legume has a succulent has succulent foliage or fruits, and part of the explanation may be the limited ration of potassium to nitrogen in legumes. This also holds for nitrogen-fixing plants generally.

Daisies seem to be poor in protein, possibly even more so than grasses. This may help to explain

  • their general unpalatability to browsers, and
  • their acceptability as bulk food to Merino sheep, which are basically grazers.

However, they are certainly not poor in potassium. The concentrations of potassium in the leaves of daisies in Karoo vegetation are consistent with the textures of the foliage.



Lycium is a protein- and potassium-rich non-legume.

It is rich in potassium compared to most coexisting plants other than succulents (which average slightly more than 2%) in the Karoo, with values double those in coexisting grasses and legumes. This is consistent with the fleshiness (semi-succulence) of the leaves.

However, the ratio of potassium to nitrogen is small in Lycium, because of its richness in nitrogen.

Foliar concentrations of potassium are slightly less than 2% in the Karoo, compared to about 2% in Australia, and 3-6% in the USA. The latter values seem remarkably great in absolute terms.

In the Karoo, foliar nitrogen, even when underestimated by analysis for crude protein, is 2.8% in Lycium. This is somewhat greater than expected for an intercontinental genus of base-rich soils under semi-arid climates. It exceeds the means for the following categories of plants in the Karoo:

  • plants with succulent fruits (2.4%),
  • legumes (2.2%),
  • succulents (1.8%),
  • grasses (1.3%), and
  • daisies (1.0%).


Atriplex seems typical of succulent plants in its ratio of potassium to nitrogen

Posted on July 10, 2023 06:28 AM by milewski milewski


Does crude protein overestimate nitrogen?

Why is it that analysis of crude protein seems to give smaller ratios of potassium to nitrogen than does analysis of nitrogen?

For example:
Atriplex 1.1 cf 1.4-2.6
Lycium 0.6 cf 0.8-1.2

Posted by milewski about 1 year ago


The only species ninth data-set with fleshy foliage, namely Chenopodium gaudichaudianum, has leaves with an exceptionally great ratio of potassium to nitrogen, viz. >3.

This and 8 other spp. (6 spp. of non-parasites and 3 spp. of parasites) with succulent fruits have leaves with a mean value of 1.1.

Plants (4 spp.) with fruit types other than succulent: mean 1.12

(This compares to a mean of 1.3 for 9 spp. in the North American arid zone.)

Posted by milewski about 1 year ago

Data from Western Australia, collected by Bill Foulds:

The foliar ratio of potassium to nitrogen is greater in plants with succulent fruits (1.6) than in other plants (0.9). This difference increases if only the parasitic plants with succulent fruits are considered; the ratio is 1.7, compared to 1.3 for non-parasitic plants with succulent fruits.

There is negligible difference among daisies, succulents, grasses, and non-parasitic plants with succulent fruits; all have ratios of potassium to nitrogen of about 1.3-1.4.

Plants in general 0.9
Legumes 0.5 (a remarkably small value)
Parasitic plants with succulent fruits 1.7

Posted by milewski about 1 year ago

The domestic apple has a great requirement for potassium. Poor drainage males potassiumnin the soil unavailable to the roots (Teskey and Shoemaker 1978,

In the cranberry, "fruit potassium is nearly three times as great as leaf potassium" (Shoemaker 1978, and

The banana has extreme demands for potassium, and is sensitive to poor drainage (Samson 1986, and and

Posted by milewski about 1 year ago

Factors for succulent fruits

Posted by milewski about 1 year ago

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments