Original Research

Epidermis structure in Mesembryanthemaceae

H. -D. Ihlenfeldt
Bothalia | Vol 14, No 3/4 | a1264 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v14i3/4.1264 | © 1983 H. -D. Ihlenfeldt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 November 1983 | Published: 06 November 1983

About the author(s)

H. -D. Ihlenfeldt, Institut fur Allgemeine Botanik, Universitát Hamburg, Germany

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The Mesembryanthemaceae, which inhabit the deserts and semi-deserts of Southern Africa, exhibit two very different types of epidermis. The first is characterized by thick outer cell walls encrusted by oxalate crystals, a thick cuticle and thick wax layers. In the second type, the epidermal cells exhibit only very thin outer cell walls, not encrusted by oxalate crystals, a very thin cuticle, and wax layers are poorly developed; the most prominent feature of this type is the occurrence of huge idioblasts often protruding as ‘bladder cells’. With regard to the climatic conditions in the native habitats this type of epidermis must be called ‘abnormal’.

Both types of epidermis may form sculptures of three distinct size classes, which are not necessarily homologous. The function of these sculptures is still poorly understood. There is evidence that the sculptures influence the optical properties of the surfaces and thereby the radiation balance (and heat stress) of the leaves.From recent research, it has become evident that the two different types of epidermis are the anatomical expression of two different strategies for survival under extreme conditions. Species with the idioblast type of epidermis exhibit a strategy that might be called ‘opportunistic’. These species have developed a mechanism of gaining water from the atmosphere during the night under favourable conditions. There are indications that the idioblasts are involved in this mechanism.


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