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image of Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

The distribution of mucilage cells in vegetative parts of the dicotyledons is reviewed on the basis of an extensive literature study. Mucilage or slime cells occur in 144 families, belonging to 47 orders as defined in Takhtajan's system of classification. Their systematic and diagnostic value at different levels of the taxonomic hierarchy is discussed. Although mucilage cells are generally diagnostic at the species level, variation within genera and families seriously limits the systematic significance in mostphylads. The core families of the Malvales, which are all mucilaginous, constitute an exception at the ordinal level, while in a number of genera, families, and orders the distribution of mucilage cells tends to be associated with natural groups. In most families and orders of the subclass Asteridae, mucilage cells are absent from the vegetative organs. Development, ultrastructure, histochemistry, and distribution of mucilage cells are briefly reviewed. In almost all well documented cases, mucilage is deposited as an additional wall layer by the Golgi apparatus. Except for mucilage associated with raphide crystals, records of vacuolar mucilages are rare in the dicotyledons and merit critical reinvestigation. The functions attributed to mucilage cells in vegetative parts include carbohydrate storage, water storage, reduction of transpiration, protection from intensive radiation by light scattering or reflection, and protection against herbivory. In almost all cases, experimental evidence for any of these functions is lacking.

Affiliations: 1: Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens ; 2: Rijksherbarium


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