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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Chapter 5 - Meristems of the shoot and their role in plant growth and development



Among the unusually interesting and unique aspects of plants is their indeterminate mode of growth. This results from the presence of apical meristems by which new cells and tissues are added to the plant body during every period of growth. As a consequence plants have the potential to increase in size at regular intervals throughout their lives. This accounts for the large size of some plants such as the redwoods of California as well as many hardwood tree species of temperate and tropical forests.

A meristem is a localized region of tissue which, by cell division, adds new cells to a plant or plant part. In the shoots of vascular plants the activity of meristems results in an increase in length and/or diameter, and following cell growth and differentiation, formation of the various mature tissue regions of the axes as well as the formation of organs such as leaves, cone scales, sporophylls, stipules, flower parts, etc. Some meristems are self-perpetuating and thus, can be considered to be “permanent” meristems. Most apical meristems and the vascular cambium are meristems of this type and, as a result of their activity, provide vascular plants with their mode of indeterminate growth. Others, such as the meristems that contribute to the formation of the petiole and blade of leaves, flower parts, and the various other lateral appendages of non-seed plants, cease functioning when these organs, characterized by determinate growth, reach their genetically predetermined size and form.

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