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Viscous Gel


This is an interesting observation:

The root tip thing is very interesting. While up at Batang Ai last week took some time to look closely at a very common species of Piptospatha and realized that the active root tip was always coated in cap of viscous gel; looking at root development it dawned on me that the gel was acting as an adhesive; as the root progressed across the rock the gel cap laid down a thin film, much the same as a slug or snail does, and the developing root hairs bound into this, gluing the root to the rock to the extent that attempts to remove older portions the root actually removed fragments of the rock (shale).

Is the gel material water soluble? That is, would it wash away in a rain? It would seem as though a soluble matrix would not work where you are. Too temporary. But that leaves insoluble materials, which seem less likely from a plant source unless it's like pine sap or pitch. But then pine sap seems to me to probably be unfriendly to a root. Then there's the practical problem of wetting a moist surface with a hydrophobic liquid.

What happens later? Does the gel just seem to be there for the initial phases of root extension and then disappear? Or does the gel remain? Maybe the roots overwhelm and encase it?

Does it look like the gel oozes evenly from plant cells, or do you think there might be a gland-like structure from which it is emitted?

So many questions.


P.S.: If you send me a couple of bits of your shale with attached roots I can look at it under an electron microscope. It would probably make a nice picture. Contact me off-list: ted.held@us.henkel.com.
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