This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Understanding Red Vine Tendrils

Brunnichia ovata

Researchers in the United States have discovered the mechanisms a problematic weed uses to over-run and secure itself to crops and fences or other structures. Red Vine, Brunnichia ovata, is a perennial woody vine that regenerates new growth from woody rootstocks and climbs by its tendrils. It is a big problem for crops, especially soyabeans, in the Mississippi Delta, and also for gardeners when it spreads to the flower bed or vegetable plot. The vines’ extensive deep roots allow them to survive environmental extremes. Herbicides alone cannot provide complete control of the vines, so additional management tactics are needed.

Tendrils are organs used by some vines to help them climb, but little has been known about how they develop or support the vine. At the Southern Weed Science Research Unit in Stoneville, Mississippi, Christopher G. Meloche, a postdoctoral scientist, discovered two unique aspects of Red Vine tendrils: A compound that sticks the tendril to objects and a unique fibre cell that is involved in both coiling and final stiffening of the tendril. Red Vine tendrils begin growing out of the shoot straight, thin, and flexible. Meloche discovered that when the vine encounters something to climb, epidermal cells along the length of the tendril expand in response to touch by elongating in the direction of the stimulus. The tendrils as a whole respond by coiling around the object for support. Cells enriched with phenols break apart as the tendrils rub against the object. Then the phenols react with an enzyme, polyphenol oxidase (PPO), to produce a sticky cement that the tendrils use to adhere to the surface the vine is climbing.

This is the first time PPO has been implicated in generating an adhesive in a climbing plant. At the same time, it was discovered that a gelatinous fibre which has only been previously found in trees, is also at work in Red Vine. It was determined that the weed’s tendrils produce fibre cells enriched in lignin to radically increase the tendrils’ strength. Then the cells die, which leads to a dry, rigid coil structure that securely anchors the vine to the support. Photo: USDA

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