A tissue is a group of cells having a common origin and usually performing a common function. A plant is made up of different kinds of tissues. Tissues are classified into two main groups, namely, meristematic and permanent tissues based on whether the cells being formed are capable of dividing or not.
Growth in plants is largely restricted to specialised regions of active cell division called meristems (Gk. meristos: divided). Plants have different kinds of meristems. The meristems which occur at the tips of roots and shoots and produce primary tissues are called apical meristems (Figure).
Root apical meristem occupies the tip of a root while the shoot apical meristem occupies the distant most region of the stem axis. During the formation of leaves and elongation of stem, some cells ‘left behind’ from shoot apical meristem, constitute the axillary bud. Such buds are present in the axils of leaves and are capable of forming a branch or a flower. The meristem which occurs between mature tissues is known as intercalary meristem. They occur in grasses and regenerate parts removed by the grazing herbivores. Both apical meristems and intercalary meristems are primary meristems because they appear early in life of a plant and contribute to the formation of the primary plant body. The meristem that occurs in the mature regions of roots and shoots of many plants, particularly those that produce woody axis and appear later than primary meristem is called the secondary or lateral meristem. They are cylindrical meristems. Fascicular vascular cambium, interfascicular cambium and cork-cambium are examples of lateral meristems. These are responsible for producing the secondary tissues.
Following divisions of cells in both primary and as well as secondary meristems, the newly formed cells become structurally and functionally specialised and lose the ability to divide. Such cells are termed permanent or mature cells and constitute permanent tissues. During the formation of the primary plant body, specific regions of the apical meristem produce dermal tissues, ground tissues and vascular tissues.
The cells of the permanent tissues do not generally divide further. Permanent tissues having all cells similar in structure and function are called simple tissues. Permanent tissues having many different types of cells are called complex tissues.
A simple tissue is made of only one type of cells. The various simple tissues in plants are parenchyma, collenchyma and sclerenchyma (Figure). Parenchyma forms the major component within organs. The cells of the parenchyma are generally isodiametric. They may be spherical, oval, round, polygonal or elongated in shape. Their walls are thin and made up of cellulose. They may either be closely packed
or have small intercellular spaces. The parenchyma performs various functions like
photosynthesis, storage, secretion.
The collenchyma occurs in layers below the epidermis in most of the dicotyledonous plants. It is found either as a homogeneous layer or in patches. It consists of cells which are much thickened at the corners due to a deposition of cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin. Collenchymatous cells may be oval, spherical or polygonal and often contain chloroplasts. These cells assimilate food when they contain chloroplasts. Intercellular space are absent. They provide mechanical support to the growing parts of the plant such as young stem and petiole of a leaf.
Sclerenchyma consists of long, narrow cells with thick and lignified cell walls having a few or numerous pits. They are usually dead and without protoplasts. On the basis of variation in form, structure, origin and development, sclerenchyma
may be either fibres or sclereids. The fibres are thick-walled, elongated and pointed cells, generally occuring in groups, in various parts of the plant. The sclereids are spherical, oval or cylindrical, highly thickened dead cells with very narrow cavities (lumen). These are commonly found in the fruit walls of nuts; pulp of fruits like guava, pear and sapota; seed coats of legumes and leaves of tea. Sclerenchyma provides mechanical support to organs.
The complex tissues are made of more than one type of cells and these work together as a unit. Xylem and phloem constitute the complex tissues in plants (Figure).
Xylem functions as a conducting tissue for water and minerals from roots to the stem and leaves. It also provides mechanical strength to the plant parts. It is composed of four different kinds of elements, namely, tracheids, vessels, xylem fibres and xylem parenchyma. Gymnosperms lack vessels in their xylem. Tracheids are elongated or tube-like cells with thick and lignified walls and tapering ends. These are dead and
are without protoplasm. The inner layers of the cell walls have thickenings which vary in form. In flowering plants, tracheids and vessels are the main water transporting elements. Vessel is a long cylindrical tube-like structure made up of many cells called vessel members, each with lignified walls and a large central cavity. The vessel cells are also devoid of protoplasm. Vessel members are interconnected through perforations in their common walls. The presence of vessels is a characteristic feature of angiosperms. Xylem fibres have highly thickened walls and
obliterated central lumens. These may either be septate or aseptate. Xylem parenchyma cells are living and thin-walled, and their cell walls are made up of cellulose. They store food materials in the form of starch or fat and other substances like tannins. The radial conduction of water takes place by the ray parenchymatous cells.
Primary xylem is of two types – protoxylem and metaxylem. The first formed primary xylem elements are called protoxylem and the later formed primary xylem is called metaxylem. In stems, the protoxylem lies towards the centre (pith) and the
metaxylem lies towards the periphery of the organ. This type of primary xylem is called endarch. In roots, the protoxylem lies towards periphery and metaxylem lies towards the centre. Such an arrangement of primary xylem is called exarch.
Phloem transports food materials, usually from leaves to other parts of the plant. Phloem in angiosperms is composed of sieve tube elements, companion cells, phloem parenchyma and phloem fibres. Gymnosperms have albuminous cells and sieve cells.
They lack sieve tubes and companion cells. Sieve tube elements are also long, tube-like structures, arranged longitudinally and are associated with the companion cells. Their end walls are perforated in a sieve-like manner to form the sieve plates. A mature sieve element possesses a peripheral cytoplasm and a large vacuole but lacks a nucleus. The functions of sieve tubes are controlled by the nucleus of companion
cells. The companion cells are specialised parenchymatous cells, which are closely associated with sieve tube elements. The sieve tube elements and companion cells are connected by pit fields present between their common longitudinal walls. The companion cells help in maintaining the pressure gradient in the sieve tubes. Phloem parenchyma is made up of elongated, tapering cylindrical cells which have dense cytoplasm and nucleus. The cell wall is composed of cellulose and has pits through which plasmodesmatal connections exist between the cells. The phloem parenchyma stores food material and other substances like resins, latex and mucilage. Phloem parenchyma is absent in most of the monocotyledons. Phloem fibres (bast fibres) are made up of sclerenchymatous cells. These are generally absent in the primary phloem but are found in the secondary phloem. These are much elongated, unbranched and have pointed, needle-like apices. The cell wall of phloem fibres is quite thick. At maturity, these fibres lose their protoplasm and become dead. Phloem fibres of jute, flax and hemp are used commercially. The first formed primary phloem consists of narrow sieve tubes and is referred to as protophloem and the later formed phloem has bigger sieve tubes and is referred to as metaphloem.