The xylem of anisohydric Quercus alba L is more vulnerable to embolism than isohydric codominants.
The coordination of plant leaf water potential (ΨL) regulation and xylem vulnerability to embolism is fundamental for understanding the tradeoffs between carbon uptake and risk of hydraulic damage. There is a general consensus that trees with vulnerable xylem more conservatively regulate ΨL than plants with resistant xylem. We evaluated if this paradigm applied to three important eastern US temperate tree species, Quercus alba L., Acer saccharum Marsh. And Liriodendron tulipifera L., by synthesizing 1600 ΨL observations, 122 xylem embolism curves and xylem anatomical measurements across 10 forests spanning pronounced hydroclimatological gradients and ages. We found that, unexpectedly, the species with the most vulnerable xylem (Q. alba) regulated ΨL less strictly than the other species. This relationship was found across all sites, such that coordination among traits was largely unaffected by climate and stand age. Quercus species are perceived to be among the most drought tolerant temperate US forest species; however, our results suggest their relatively loose ΨL regulation in response to hydrologic stress occurs with a substantial hydraulic cost that may expose them to novel risks in a more drought‐prone future.