Xylem of early angiosperms: Novel microstructure in stem tracheids of Barclaya (Nymphaeaceae)

Edward L. Schneider, Sherwin Carlquist

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Pit membranes of stem tracheids of all recognized species of Barclaya, an Indomalaysian genus of Nymphaeaceae, were studied with scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Pit membranes of the tracheids are composed of two thick layers, both constructed of fibrils much larger than those of tracheary elements of angiosperms other than Nymphaeaceae. The outer (distal) layer, which comprises the continuous primary wall around the tracheids, is spongiform, perforated by porosities of relatively uniform size, and confined to or most prominent on end walls of stem tracheids. The second layer consists of thick widely spaced fibrils that are oriented axially and are laid down proximally (facing the cell lumen) to the first (outer) layer, although continuous with it. These axial fibrils are attached at their ends to the pit cavities. This peculiar microstructure is not known outside Nymphaeaceae except in Brasenia and Cabomba (Cabombaceae, Nymphaeales), and has not been previously described for Barclaya. The longitudinally oriented threads and strands in perforation plates of secondary xylem of wood and stems of a variety of primitive woody angiosperms (e.g., Illicium) are not homologous to the pit membrane structure observed in stem tracheids of Barclaya, which, like other Nymphaeaceae, has only primary xylem and no perforation plates. The tracheid microstructure reported here is different from pit structures observed in any other group of vascular plants, living or fossil. The tracheid stem microstructures of Barclaya and other Nymphaeaceae appear to be a synapomorphy of Nymphaeaceae and Cabombaceae, and need further study with respect to ultrastructure and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-66
Number of pages6
JournalAquatic Botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Collection of plant material for this study was supported by a grant from National Science Foundation (DEB-8102041).

Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Microstructure
  • Nymphaeaceae
  • Pit membrane
  • Tracheid
  • Xylem


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