The tracheid-vessel element transition in angiosperms involves multiple independent features: Cladistic consequences

Sherwin Carlquist, Edward L. Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Current definitions of tracheids and vessel elements are overly simple. These definitions are based on light microscope studies and have not incorporated information gained with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) or transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Current definitions are based primarily on angiosperms, especially eudicots, and were devised before many basal angiosperms were carefully studied. When all sources of information are taken into account, one can recognize changes in six characters in the evolution of tracheids into vessel elements in angiosperms (or vice versa) as well as in other groups of vascular plants. There is an appreciable number of taxa in which all criteria for vessel origin are not met, and thus incipient vessels are present. At the very least, vessel presence or absence should not be treated as a single binary character state change in construction of cladistic matrices. Increase in conductive area of an end wall by means of lysis of progressively greater areas of pit membrane and increase in pit area on the end wall (as compared to pit area on equivalent portions of lateral walls) are considered the most important usable criteria for recognizing intermediacy between tracheids and vessel elements. Primitive character states in vessel elements are briefly discussed to differentiate them from changes in character states that can be regarded as intermediate between tracheids and vessel elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-195
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • "tracheid-vessel element transition"
  • Cladistics
  • Evolution in primitive woods
  • Origin of vessels
  • Pit membranes
  • Vessel elements
  • Xylem


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