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Biology LibreTexts

11.2: Introduction

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  • The two questions you answered above are essential to understanding the evolution of secondary growth. In secondary growth, primary tissues and residual meristematic tissues produce secondary meristems, which then produce secondary tissues. Whereas primary tissues allow for vertical growth, secondary tissues allow for lateral growth: they allow stems and roots to become wider. How might this impact the ability of a plant to grow taller?

    In addition to growing wider, secondary growth exchanges the living epidermis for a thick layer of dead, waterproofed cells called cork. The cork and a few other layers of tissue comprise something called the periderm, or perhaps more familiarly called bark. Consider the tradeoffs between having a living exterior with guard cells vs. a thick layer of waterproofed dead cells. How might this impact the ability of the plant to interact with the outer environment? How might this impact the ability of the outer environment to interact with the interior of the plant?

    Variations on this type of growth appear in a few places, but the evolution of gymnosperms (conifers and their relatives) is when the more typical secondary growth appears in evolutionary history. As you will see in later labs, the gymnosperms evolved during a period in Earth’s history when inland seas were drying out and plants were migrating further from the water. This group of plants is specialized for growing tall (think Coast redwoods) or living in harsh, low-water environments. As a general rule, monocots do not undergo secondary growth, so this lab will only address eudicots.

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