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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the main function and basic structure of stems
  • Compare and contrast the roles of dermal tissue, vascular tissue, and ground tissue
  • Distinguish between primary growth and secondary growth in stems
  • Summarize the origin of annual rings
  • List and describe examples of modified stems

Stems are a part of the shoot system of a plant. They may range in length from a few millimeters to hundreds of meters, and also vary in diameter, depending on the plant type. Stems are usually above ground, although the stems of some plants, such as the potato, also grow underground. Stems may be herbaceous (soft) or woody in nature. Their main function is to provide support to the plant, holding leaves, flowers and buds; in some cases, stems also store food for the plant. A stem may be unbranched, like that of a palm tree, or it may be highly branched, like that of a magnolia tree. The stem of the plant connects the roots to the leaves, helping to transport absorbed water and minerals to different parts of the plant. It also helps to transport the products of photosynthesis, namely sugars, from the leaves to the rest of the plant.

Plant stems, whether above or below ground, are characterized by the presence of nodes and internodes ( [link] ). Nodes are points of attachment for leaves, aerial roots, and flowers. The stem region between two nodes is called an internode    . The stalk that extends from the stem to the base of the leaf is the petiole. An axillary bud    is usually found in the axil—the area between the base of a leaf and the stem—where it can give rise to a branch or a flower. The apex (tip) of the shoot contains the apical meristem within the apical bud    .

 Photo shows a stem. Leaves are attached to petioles, which are small branches that radiate out from the stem. The petioles join the branch at junctions called nodes. The nodes are separated by a length of stem called the internode. Above the petioles, small leaves bud out from the node.
Leaves are attached to the plant stem at areas called nodes. An internode is the stem region between two nodes. The petiole is the stalk connecting the leaf to the stem. The leaves just above the nodes arose from axillary buds.

Stem anatomy

The stem and other plant organs arise from the ground tissue, and are primarily made up of simple tissues formed from three types of cells: parenchyma, collenchyma, and sclerenchyma cells.

Parenchyma cells are the most common plant cells ( [link] ). They are found in the stem, the root, the inside of the leaf, and the pulp of the fruit. Parenchyma cells are responsible for metabolic functions, such as photosynthesis, and they help repair and heal wounds. Some parenchyma cells also store starch.

Micrograph shows a stem about 1.2 millimeters across. The central pith layer is about 800 microns across. Pith cells stain greenish-blue and are about 50 to 100 microns in diameter in the middle, and smaller toward the outside. Surrounding the pith is a ring of xylem cells about 75 microns across and four cells deep. Xylem cells, which are about 15 microns across, radiate out from the center in rows. Rows of green-staining phloem cells radiate out from the xylem cells.  Phloem cells are about half the size of xylem cells. Outside the phloem is a ring of cells that make up the peripheral cortex. Cells in the peripheral cortex are rounded rectangles that lie perpendicular to the phloem. The outermost epidermis is made up of cells similar in shape to the peripheral cortex cells but a bit larger. On opposite faces of the stem the peripheral cortex bulges outward, forming buds about 150 microns across.
The stem of common St John's Wort ( Hypericum perforatum ) is shown in cross section in this light micrograph. The central pith (greenish-blue, in the center) and peripheral cortex (narrow zone 3–5 cells thick just inside the epidermis) are composed of parenchyma cells. Vascular tissue composed of xylem (red) and phloem tissue (green, between the xylem and cortex) surrounds the pith. (credit: Rolf-Dieter Mueller)

Collenchyma cells are elongated cells with unevenly thickened walls ( [link] ). They provide structural support, mainly to the stem and leaves. These cells are alive at maturity and are usually found below the epidermis. The “strings” of a celery stalk are an example of collenchyma cells.

Questions & Answers

What is the causes of Evolution
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Charles D
complete the table below based on the levels of biological organization
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insect and plants
bacteria and chlamydompnas
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full meaning of ATP
A life process in which living things increase their population through sexual or non sexual intercouse
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Gifty ATP means Adenosine tri phosphate
the process by which organisms produce their own kind.
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What is the meaning of optic
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Giving a specific section of the alimentary canal,describe 3 ways in which physical digestion occurs.
mouth when chewing
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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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