Plant Stems: Functional Design and Mechanics

Annual Review of Materials Research (Impact Factor: 13.07). 07/2011; 41:169-193. DOI:10.1146/annurev-matsci-062910-100425

ABSTRACT Plant stems are one of nature's most impressive mechanical constructs. Their sophisticated hierarchical structure and multifunctionality allow trees to grow more than 100 m tall. This review highlights the advanced mechanical design of plant stems from the integral level of stem structures down to the fiber-reinforced-composite character of the cell walls. Thereby we intend not only to provide insight into structure-function relationships at the individual levels of hierarchy but to further discuss how growth forms and habits of plant stems are closely interrelated with the peculiarities of their tissue and cell structure and mechanics. This concept is extended to a further key feature of plants, namely, adaptive growth as a reaction to mechanical perturbation and/or changing environmental conditions. These mechanical design principles of plant stems can serve as concept generators for advanced biomimetic materials and may inspire materials and engineering sciences research.

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Thomas Speck