Xylem

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In vascular plants, xylem is one of the two types of transport tissue, phloem being the other. The word "xylem" is derived from classical Greek ξυλον (xylon), "wood", and indeed the best-known xylem tissue is wood, though it is found throughout the plant. Its basic function is to transport water but it also transports some nutrients through the plant.

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Physiology of xylem

The xylem is responsible for the transport of water and soluble mineral nutrients from the roots throughout the plant. It is also used to replace water lost during transpiration and photosynthesis. Xylem sap consists mainly of water and inorganic ions, although it can contain a number of organic chemicals as well. This transport is not powered by energy spent by the tracheary elements themselves, which are dead by maturity and no longer have living contents. Two phenomena cause xylem sap to flow:

  • Transpirational pull: the most important cause of xylem sap flow is the evaporation of water from the surfaces of mesophyll cells to the atmosphere. This transpiration causes millions of minute menisci to form in the mesophyll cell wall. The resulting surface tension causes a negative pressure or tension in the xylem that pulls the water from the roots and soil.
  • Root pressure: If the water potential of the root cells is more negative than that of the soil, usually due to high concentrations of solute, water can move by osmosis into the root from the soil. This causes a positive pressure that forces sap up the xylem towards the leaves. In some circumstances, the sap will be forced from the leaf through a hydathode in a phenomenon known as guttation. Root pressure is highest in the morning before the stomata open and allow transpiration to begin. Different plant species can have different root pressures even in a similar environment; examples include up to 145 kPa in Vitis riparia but around zero in Celastrus orbiculatus[2].

Anatomy of xylem

Xylem can be found:

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