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Aroid Roots that Cling to Rock

People might remember a month or so back when Peter Boyce spoke of an Asian aroid that attached itself by roots to rock ledges. Well, I didn't have material from that plant, but the common aquatic genus Anubias also has roots that affix themselves tightly to substrate pebbles. Above is a picture of one of these roots that I took with a scanning electron microscope (SEM). You can see the little hair-like structures, that are probably responsible for doing the attachment, emanating from the main root. The bond is quite strong and detaching the root requires that it be broken and torn. The root is attached here to piece of ordinary "pea" gravel. Because an SEM requires high vacuum, many plant parts become desiccated and withered as you look at them, as has happened to the main root here. That is why the center root skin shows the outline of individual cells. In life the root would be fuller. Fortunately for this investigation these tissues contain enough cellulose to indicate the structure despite being dry. For reference, the little measuring bar in the center is 500 microns wide, 0.5 millimeters.

By the way, if you are in Miami this September for the IAS show, I plan on presenting an informal workshop talk on Cryptocoryne, an Asian aquatic aroid genus that does not form roots that affix to rock. But I think I'll include more pictures of this same root in the presentation because there are a number of small organisms living on this tissue and they were a source of amazement for me when I saw them under the SEM. When you look at things really close it is fun to find that the world is filled with life forms that we are not even aware of, merrily living their lives not caring about either Republicans or Democrats.

I have sent some SEM pictures of the little beasts (my guess is that they are diatoms, but they are not the usual symmetric forms that you always see in the textbooks) to Christopher Rogers, our resident invertebrate specialist on this list, for identification. We'll see if he comes up with the answer by September. Come to the show to find out.

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