Myrtaceae of Chile

by H. Retamales

Plant anatomy.

Plant anatomy is usually regarded as a very old technique. Nonetheless, recent studies are relying more and more on this approach. But, what do we understand as plant "anatomy"?

In biology, it is normal to read the word anatomy when we refer to "parts" or "elements" when describing a certain living organism. Books are full of pictures of birds, mammals and insects showing labels of its external parts and we call that anatomy. The latter assumption is not wrong, but differs from what we as botanists acknowledge as plant anatomy. According to our botanic terminology, plant anatomy is no other than "cut-open" a plant in order to investigate its tissues and cell types under the light microscope. 

Is it true that the plant sciences are relying more in plant anatomy? The answer is YES and it is logical. In the past few decades (´60, ´70), there was a boom regarding cut opening of plant tissues and description of elements and cells. By that time, technologies did not allow a deeper investigation of the things that scientists were observing under the microscope. Nowadays, fluorescent miscroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, new staining techniques and modern equipment, allow an improved analysis of the internal structure of organisms.

Plant anatomy has a number of applications, such as plant systematics, physiology, phytochemistry and ecology among others. Likewise, plant anatomy is also used for wood identification, forensics, paleontological discoveries, customs in airports and even geology!

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith