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Organization & Classification of Plant Parts
The principle of tissue system organization
Exercise 1 The use of the microscope
Anomalous growth in plants
The vascular system
The Appendices: Contain information and details of useful techniques and they provide help with sectioning, stain preparation, and staining technique.
What kind of section do you have?
The Seven Sessions
Core Practical Outcomes
The Virtual Plant has been developed primarily as a a hands-on aid to student revision and is based on the introductory Plant Anatomy courses offered at several Universities, including Rhodes University. The primary objectives are to introduce the reader to the internal structure of higher plants in their vegetative state. The Virtual Plant therefore includes information on plant structure-function interrelationships where this is appropriate. This material was produced as an adjunct to Plant Anatomy - an applied approach, in which we introduce the student to the principles of Plant anatomy, and examine some of its applications in more detail. Users are however advised to refer also to other texts, such as Esau's Plant Anatomy and Anatomy of Seed Plants for additional reference material. The Virtual Plant is designed to give more comprehensive coverage of the discipline than is commonly allowed for in modern syllabi - which, sadly almost all neglect the importance of plant structure and associated issues.
The overall theme of The Virtual Plant is to introduce and to explore the anatomy of stem, root and leaf - from a fundamental structure, function and adaptive perspective. We also introduce users to simple microscopic technique - we introduce the basic use of the microscope and explore some useful preparation techniques, which may be found by following the appropriate links to the appendices. The exercises present examples of some normal and some of the abnormal (anomalous) anatomical structures that exist amongst Angiosperms and Gymnosperms.
The philosophy behind The Virtual Plant was relatively simple -- not everyone works quickly enough to be able to finish a practical session within the allotted time; not all students are lucky enough to have after-hours access to a microscope; nor do all students absorb information at the same pace. The Virtual Plant was designed to allow for self-paced, independent study, as these would encourage key questions such as:- "Why is the internal structure of plants so different?" or "why is plant structure so regular and predictable in some, but not all plants?"A further factor that encouraged the production of the The Virtual Plant was that plant anatomy is unfortunately, becoming less studied at school, college and university level. Perhaps because the discipline is perceived as being a less glamorous laboratory-based option, compared to many other fields in Plant Biology. Arguably, lack of anatomical knowledge is proving disastrous. Fewer scientists really understand what they are dealing with when examining plant structure. Molecular biology for example, requires understanding of the localization of gene complexes in plants. In some cases, the researchers do not know (or understand, or worse, comprehend) the difference between the cortex and stele in stems in even the most commonly-used plants, let alone understand the ontogenetic differences between a bundle sheath and a mestome sheath!
Those of us who have a genuine interest in plant anatomy, believe that students need to be given a thorough grounding in basic plant structure. At the very least you will then be able to recognize the difference between stems, roots and leaves and should be able to recognise the cell and tissue types within which your interest lies.
We hope that the information presented here will be useful and will help you learn about the intermixture of structures that make up some otherwise fairly common land plants. If you make good use of The Virtual Plant and the information it contains, we believe that you will gain a great deal of insight into plant structure and the interactive functionality of the whole plant. Additionally you may gain a greater appreciation for this subject, and just why it is so important to understand plant structure.
The techniques section contains useful, quite straight-forward procedures, which should benefit teacher and student alike. This section explores basic methods used in the preparation, preservation, sectioning, and staining of plant material. By making use of these techniques, you will enhance or improve the image detail in your own material and, we hope, this excites greater interest in this fundamental botanical discipline.
The way in which cells are grouped will influence the plant's morphology
Exploring the Virtual Plant
The Virtual Plantis organized into seven practical tasks. The first deals with the use of the microscope and the subsequent exercises explore issues relating to the basic concepts of the primary structure of the stem, root and leaf. The next two sessions deal with anomalous structures and the final session, is a brief overview of the evolutionary changes in vascularization. They may be approached in any order. This version of The Virtual Plant does not cover all aspects of plant structure and function -- hopefully, though you will become stimulated to look further, deeper and hence, understand more. The sessions are described briefly below.
The Laboratory Sessions
The Microscope This introductory session is devoted to some of the basic principals needed (generally poorly explained and and often forgotten!) to enable you to make good use of a student microscope. We make use of simple examples and introduce the concept of magnification, field of view and scale.
The Stem This session explores monocotyledon, dicotyledon and gymnosperm stems - you can look at at the differences and similarities between them and have an opportunity to examine examples of herbaceous and potentially woody stems as well.
The Root Here, the emphasis is on similarities and differences -- the monocot, the dicot and gymnosperm rooting systems. How do they differ? Are there features that they have in common, or is it simply cut and dried that they are all categorized and distinct from one another?
The Leaf This session serves as an introduction to mesomorphic and non-mesomorphic leaf structure. There is a fairly detailed examination of the differences and similarities between some "typical" monocot, dicot and gymnosperm leaves. You will be exposed to structural changes related to, and induced by, the type of photosynthesis (C3 C4 and CAM), as well as by habitat and environment for example.
Secondary Growth in Plants The emphasis in this session will be on structural changes that occur during secondary growth in roots and stems, including the changes that occur in the transition from an entirely primary plant body, to one in which new vascular tissues and new protective layers are formed.
Anomalous Growth in Plants In this session we introduce the concept of anomalous growth using some examples of roots and stems. The examples chosen are but few but hopefully they will stimulate a basic understanding of the concepts involved in anomalous growth.
The vascular system Vascularization was an essential step in the land migration, as well as the development of more efficient (but not necessarily larger) plants. This exercise examines some aspects of the evolution and development of the vascular systems in plants. We will look at some examples of hydrophytes, as well as some 'typical' land plants, which show variable structural features.Core objectives:
In addition to the accompanying Plant Anatomy - an applied approach, we strongly encourage reference to texts such as Esau's The Anatomy of Seed Plants and Plant Anatomy as these are sources of very valuable additional information.
The appendices have been compiled to help and assist you to make the most of general procedures which are needed to allow preparation and observation. How to cut sections, to stain them to draw what you see - this and more information is provided here.
Please remember: Many of the chemicals that are mentioned in the assignments and write-ups, which are used to fix, prepare and/or stain sections may well be hazardous to your health. Please exercise great care when using them.
The concepts and ideas expressed within theVirtual Plant and its associated electronic media are, unless otherwise stated, those of the authors. Whilst you are welcome to make use of the material, copying of images, parts of images, or text, other than for normal use by an instructor, is expressly forbidden without the publisher's consent.
This material may not be copied to, or inserted into any other text or hypertext document under any circumstances without express written approval of the authors and permission to make use of the material must be sought from the publisher. Many of the images are digitally signed and can be traced.
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