In Plant Physiological Ecology this semester, I worked on a group project studying plant development and growth. We used a variety of methods including time-lapse photography with mini computers, still photography, dissections, and modeling. This is one of the models I created:
The coolest discovery we made was that plant leaf shape is predetermined. Across all the clades we studied, the leaf shape was recognizable as soon as the leaf began differentiating. Within a bract were four leaves in the bud we dissected. All were folded in the same way, and all had the same leaf shape. This means that the plant must coordinate the highly complex task of growing a leaf while also maintaining its proportions and while tightly wrapped within the bract! The physiological, biochemical, and physical complexity of accomplishing this feat is pretty awesome. If we learn more about growing tissues tightly packed in small spaces, we can apply the biomechanics and physiology of such leaf growth to real-world issues including, say, growing artificial intestines within a body, organs which are so tightly packed that you’d never know they’re about 25 feet long!