Tessellations and Pattern Formation in Plant Growth and Development
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Tessellations and Pattern Formation in Plant Growth and Development

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The shoot apical meristem (SAM) is a dome-shaped collection of cells at the apex of growing plants from which all above-ground tissue ultimately derives. In Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress), a small flowering weed of the Brassicaceae family (related to mustard and cabbage), the SAM typically contains some three to five hundred cells that range from five to ten microns in diameter. These cells are organized into several distinct zones that maintain their topological and functional relationships throughout the life of the plant. As the plant grows, organs (primordia) form on its surface flanks in a phyllotactic pattern that develop into new shoots, leaves, and flowers. Cross-sections through the meristem reveal a pattern of polygonal tessellation that is suggestive of Voronoi diagrams derived from the centroids of cellular nuclei. In this chapter we explore some of the properties of these patterns within the meristem and explore the applicability of simple, standard mathematical models of their geometry.

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