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Morphological and structural characterization of the attachment system in aerial roots of Syngonium podophyllum


Main conclusion

The attachment of aerial roots of Syngonium podophyllum involves a multi-step process adjusted by multi-scale structures. Helical-crack root hairs are first found in the attachment system, representing specialized structures for surface anchorage.

The morphological variability of attachment organs reflects diverse climbing strategies. One such anchoring mode in clinging-climbers involves the time-dependent interaction between roots and the support: By naturally occurring adhesive roots with root hairs, the plant can ascend on supports of any shape and size. As a typical root-climber, Syngonium podophyllum develops elongate aerial roots at nodes. Here, we studied its attachment behavior from the external morphology to the internal structure in detail. Through SEM and LM observation on several root-substrate interfaces, we suggested that the attachment of aerial roots was mediated by a multi-step process, in which root hairs played significant roles in releasing mucilaginous substance and securing the durable anchorage. We summarized all the types of shape changes of root hairs with particular focus on the abnormal transition from a tube to a helical-crack ribbon. We demonstrated our understanding with respect to the formation of the helical-crack root hairs, based on the structural evidence of cellulose microfibrils orientation on the cell wall lamellae. The helical-crack root hairs serving as energy-dissipating units retard the failure of adhesion under high winds and loads.

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We thank Xinfang Chen, Jilei Huang, Jingyun Zhou, Chuanhe Liu from Instrumental Analysis & Research Centre, South China Agricultural University for assistance in our LM and SEM experiments. We thank Sheng Zhao, Shejian Liang from College of Life Sciences, South China Agricultural University for botanic discussion. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51373055, 51073059, 91023002, 21573077), and National Program on Key Basic Research Project (2012CB932900). We also thank two anonymous reviewers, whose suggestions and comments significantly improved our manuscript.

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Correspondence to Wenli Deng.

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Yang, X., Deng, W. Morphological and structural characterization of the attachment system in aerial roots of Syngonium podophyllum . Planta 245, 507–521 (2017).

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  • Climbing plants
  • Aerial roots
  • Root hairs
  • Attachment systems
  • Helical-crack
  • Syngonium