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Chapter: Plant Anatomy:An Applied Approach: Adaptive features

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Applications of anatomical modification in plants

The application of information about anatomical modification in plants developed in response to various environments may at first sight seem obscure.

Applications


The application of information about anatomical modification in plants developed in response to various environments may at first sight seem obscure.

 

The morphology and anatomy of a plant can give horticulturalists a good guide as to the sort of growing conditions they should provide. Take for ex-ample an orchid with conspicuously swollen leaf bases, indicating the facili-ty for water storage, and with aerial roots. It would be clear that the plant was an epiphyte which required support on a branch or log, and that it would need a very humid warm atmosphere. On the other hand, a plant with a ro-sette of thick, succulent, closely packed leaves with transparent tips would clearly be xeromorphic, would need to be planted deep in a quickly draining soil or compost so that the leaf tips were level with the surface. It would need bright light and probably a period of each year with little or no watering. It would need to be protected from frost, and may need additional heat.

The taxonomist also finds anatomical data of importance when dealing with plants from different families that have made a parallel response to a given environment, producing a similar morphology. A number of the monocotyledon families are like this. Because it is quite common for the anatomy to have retained some characters that are diagnostic for the familythese can be applied to solve problems of affinity. Both xerophytes and some hydrophytes are amenable to this type of study.

The plant breeder might find it worth looking at the anatomy of wild rel-atives of crop plants if he wishes to integrate some drought resistance, or extra structural rigidity, for example, into the crop.

It is clear, then, that some of the anatomical features that are apparent in plants are modified to an extent in relation to the environment in which the plants grow. No generalizations or sweeping statements can be made, though, and each species must be assessed on its own merits.

Several key aspects of adaptation that are quite commonly dealt with in undergraduate classes are explored in the CD-ROM, The Virtual Plant.

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