6.1.2.2 Complex Tissues

The complex tissues are made of more than one type of cells and they work together as a unit. Xylem and phloem constitute the complex tissues in plants.

Xylem functions as a conducting tissue for water and minerals from roots to the stem and leaves. It also provides mechanical strength to the plant parts. It is composed of four different kinds of elements, tracheids, vessels, xylem fibres and xylem parenchyma. Gymnosperms lack vessels in their xylem.

Tracheids are elongated or tube like cells with thick and lignified walls and tapering ends. These are dead and are without protoplasm. The inner layers of the cell walls have thickenings which vary in form. In flowering plants, tracheids and vessels are the main water transporting elements.

Vessel is a long cylindrical tube-like structure made up of many cells called vessel members, each with lignified walls and a large central cavity. The vessel cells are also devoid of protoplasm. Vessel members are interconnected through perforations in their common walls. The presence of vessels is a characteristic feature of angiosperms.

Xylem fibres have highly thickened walls and obliterated central lumens. These may either be septate or aseptate. Xylem parenchyma cells are living and thin-walled, and their cell walls are made up of cellulose. They store food materials in the form of starch or fat, and other substances like tannins. The radial conduction of water takes place by the ray parenchymatous cells. Primary xylem is of two types – protoxylem and metaxylem. The first formed primary xylem elements are called protoxylem and the later formed primary xylem is called metaxylem. In stems, the protoxylem lies towards the centre (pith) and the metaxylem lies towards the periphery of the organ. This type of primary xylem is called endarch. In roots, the protoxylem lies towards periphery and metaxylem lies towards the centre. Such arrangement of primary xylem is called exarch. Phloem transports food materials, usually from leaves to other parts of the plant. Phloem in angiosperms is composed of sieve tube elements, companion cells, phloem parenchyma and phloem fibres. Gymnosperms have albuminous cells and sieve cells. They lack sieve tubes and companion cells. Sieve tube elements are also long, tube-like structures, arranged longitudinally and are associated with the companion cells. Their end walls are perforated in a sieve-like manner to form the sieve plates. A mature sieve element possesses a peripheral cytoplasm and a large vacuole but lacks a nucleus. The functions of sieve tubes are controlled by the nucleus of companion cells. The companion cells are specialised parenchymatous cells, which are closely associated with sieve tube elements. The sieve tube elements and companion cells are connected by pit fields present between their common longitudinal walls. The companion cells help in maintaining the pressure gradient in the sieve tubes. Phloem parenchyma is made up of elongated, tapering cylindrical cells which have dense cytoplasm and nucleus. The cell wall is composed of cellulose and has pits through which plasmodesmatal connections exist between the cells. The phloem parenchyma stores food material and other substances like resins, latex and mucilage. Phloem parenchyma is absent in most of the monocotyledons. Phloem fibres (bast fibres) are made up of sclerenchymatous cells. These are generally absent in the primary phloem but are found in the secondary phloem. These are much elongated, unbranched and have pointed, needle like apices. The cell wall of phloem fibres is quite thick. At maturity, these fibres lose their protoplasm and become dead. Phloem fibres of jute, flax and hemp are used commercially. The first formed primary phloem consists of narrow sieve tubes and is referred to as protophloem and the later formed phloem has bigger sieve tubes and is referred to as metaphloem.

Definitions

Gymnosperms: a plant of a group that have seeds unprotected by an ovary or fruit, including the conifers, cycads, and ginkgo.

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