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

Chapter 11 - Secondary xylem



Most of the major taxa of vascular plants produce secondary xylem derived from the vascular cambium. Pteridophytes (except some extinct taxa), most monocotyledons, and a few species of largely aquatic dicotyledons, however, produce only primary vascular tissues. In woody plants secondary xylem comprises the bulk of the tissue in the stems and roots. It is the most important supporting tissue in arborescent dicotyledons and most gymnosperms, and the major tissue for the transport of water and essential minerals in woody plants. Secondary xylem is a complex tissue that consists not only of non-living supporting and conducting cells but also of important living components (rays and axial wood parenchyma) which, with those in the secondary phloem, comprise a three-dimensional symplastic pathway through which photosynthate and other essential molecular substances are transported thoughout the secondary tissues of the plant (Chaffey and Barlow, 2001; see pp. 206–207 for more detail). Additional increments of this tissue are added during each growing season (usually annually), but in older regions of most woody species only the outer increments are functional in transport although the number of increments that remain functional varies greatly among different species. Older increments gradually become plugged by the deposition in them of waste metabolites such as resins, tannins, and in some species by the formation of tyloses (balloon-like extensions of axial or ray parenchyma cells into adjacent conducting cells). The inner non-functional secondary xylem is called heartwood, the outer functional secondary xylem, sapwood.

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