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Rose Prickles and Asparagus Spines – Different Hook Structures as Attachment Devices in Climbing Plants

posted on 02.12.2015, 02:59 by Friederike Gallenmüller, Amélie Feus, Kathrin Fiedler, Thomas Speck

Functional morphology and biomechanical properties of hook structures functioning as attachment devices in the leaning climbers Rosa arvensis, Rosa arvensis ‘Splendens‘, Asparagus falcatus and Asparagus setaceus are analysed in order to investigate the variability in closely related species as well as convergent developments of hook structure and properties in distant systematic lineages (monocots and dicots). Prickles and spines were characterised by their size, orientation and the maximum force measured at failure in mechanical tests performed with traction forces applied at different angles. In Rosa arvensis and Rosa arvensis ‘Splendens‘ three types of prickles differing largely in geometrical and mechanical properties are identified (prickles of the wild species and two types of prickles in the cultivar). In prickles of Rosa arvensis no particular orientation of the prickle tip is found whereas in the cultivar Rosa arvensis ‘Splendens‘ prickles gradually gain a downward-orientation due to differential growth in the first weeks of their development. Differences in mechanical properties and modes of failure are correlated to geometrical parameters. In Asparagus falcatus and Asparagus setaceus spines are composed of leaf tissue, stem tissue and tissue of the axillary bud. Between species spines differ in size, orientation, distribution along the stem, tissue contributions and mechanical properties. The prickles of Rosa arvensis and its cultivar and the spines of the studied Asparagus species have several traits in common: (1) a gradual change of cell size and cell wall thickness, with larger cells in the centre and smaller thick-walled cells at the periphery of the hooks, (2) occurrence of a diversity of shape and geometry within one individual, (3) failure of single hooks when submitted to moderate mechanical stresses (Fmax/basal area < 35 N/mm²) and (4) failure of the hooks without severe stem damage (at least in the tested wild species).