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'Underground Plant Mobility' and 'Dispersal of Diaspores.' Two Exemplary Case Studies for Useful Examinations of Functional Morphology (Plant Construction)
Norbert Pütz and Karl H. A. Schmidt
Systematics and Geography of Plants
Vol. 68, No. 1/2, Morphology, Anatomy and Systematics at the Centenary of Wilhelm Troll's Birth (1999), pp. 39-50
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3668588
Page Count: 12
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Two exemplary case studies of functional morphology are presented. The first topic, underground plant mobility, illustrates the feedback effect of 'plant structure' and observation of their 'functional role'. Questions are raised in relation to both, 'plant structure' and its 'functional role'. Experiments are developed to obtain answers, and to prompt further questions resulting from these answers. This was shown in an exemplary way in the unusually geophilous strategies of Hemerocallis fulva, well adapted to fulfilling the function 'cryptical survival'. Thus, investigation of functional morphology is useful for a better understanding of plant behaviour. The second case study relates to dispersal of diaspores in Apiaceae. Wind tunnel experiments were carried out to analyze the 'flying ability' of winged or spiny mericarps. In general, winged diaspores fly better than spiny ones, except in the case of Daucus muricatus, the spiny diaspores of which fly better than the winged ones, e.g., of Prangos pabularia. Thus, this topic was useful in showing that functional approaches to 'plant structure' may reveal new perspectives in ecological understanding. However, 'form' and 'function' are frequent in botanical literature, showing that a dualistic treatment of plant structures is very helpful for a better understanding of plant biology. Besides 'underground plant movement' and 'dispersal' there are important topics such as 'floral ecology', 'biomechanics', and many more. All of these could be included in one category, which we propose to call 'plant construction'. Scientific work on 'plant construction' should be based on three basic principles: 1. The starting point of the investigation should be the specific form itself, 2. The scientific question should be functional, and 3. Scientific investigation should be based on targeted observation and experiment.
Systematics and Geography of Plants © 1999 Botanic Garden Meise