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J Exp Bot. 2008;59(11):2955-67. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ern151. Epub 2008 Jun 23.

Quantitative and qualitative changes in primary and secondary stem organization of Aristolochia macrophylla during ontogeny: functional growth analysis and experiments.

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Plant Biomechanics Group, Botanic Garden, University of Freiburg, Faculty of Biology, Schänzlestr.1, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany.


The anatomy of young and old stems of Aristolochia macrophylla has been investigated for a better understanding of how secondary growth processes cause changes in the stem anatomy of a lianescent plant. In A. macrophylla, following an increase in volume of secondary vascular tissues, the cortical tissues are deformed and the outer sclerenchymatous cylinder ruptures. Morphometric measurements prove that the inner zone of the cortical parenchymatous tissue is compressed prior to the rupture of the outer sclerenchymatous cylinder. After the rupture has occurred, the radial width of the inner primary cortex slightly increases again. This could be caused by strain relaxation, suggesting that the inner primary cortex mechanically behaves similarly to cellular technical foam rubbers. Two different experiments were undertaken to test the outer cortical cylinders mechanically. The outer cortical cylinders comprise the outer sclerenchymatous cortical tissue and a collenchymatous sheath underneath the epidermis and the epidermis. In a first experiment, transverse compression loads were applied to the outside of the cortical cylinders causing ovalization of the cylinder until failure. This experiment allowed the Young's Modulus of the outer cortical cylinders to be determined. In a second set of experiments, radial hydraulic pressure was applied to the inside of the cortical cylinders, mimicking the mechanical effects of internal growth processes. The increase of the internal pressure finally led to rupture of the cortical cylinders. The circumferential stresses acting on the inner surface of the cortical cylinders were calculated. These data allow quantitative estimates of the radial and circumferential pressures effected by vascular secondary growth processes during ontogeny in A. macrophylla stems. The experimental results further indicate that the outer sclerenchymatous cylinder is the main contributor to mechanical stability of young A. macrophylla stems.

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