字幕列表 影片播放 列印英文字幕 This is yarrow, a flowering plant found all over the Northern Hemisphere. Its feathery leaves have natural astringent properties, and its scientific name, Achillea, comes from Achilles, the Greek hero, who is said to have used it on the wounds of his soldiers. And this is snakegrass, also known as horsetail or, to the kids, popgrass, because you can just pop it apart, and then put it back together again. Although on top there, it's dead now. And this is a ponderosa pine, one of my favorite trees. They can grow hundreds of feet tall, and on a warm day if you sniff it, it smells like butterscotch. They all have different shapes, sizes, and properties, but each of these things is a vascular plant, one of the most diverse and, dare I say, important families in the tree of life. Since their predecessors first arrived on the scene some 420 million years ago, vascular plants have found tremendous success through their ability to exploit resources all around them. They convert sunshine into food. They absorb nutrients directly through the soil without the costly process of digestion. And they even enlist the help of some friends when it comes to reproduction, so often when they're doing their thing it involves a third party. Which, y'know, good for them. But these things alone can't explain vascular plants' extraordinary evolutionary success. I mean, algae was photosynthesizing long before plants made it fashionable. And as we learned last week, nonvascular plants have reproductive strategies that are tricked out six ways from Sunday. So, like, what gives? The secret to vascular plants' success is in their defining trait: conductive tissues that can take food and water from one part of a plant to another part of a plant. This may sound simple enough, but the ability to move stuff from one part of an organism to another was a huge evolutionary breakthrough for vascular plants. It allowed them to grow exponentially larger, store food for lean times, and develop some fancy features that allowed them to spread farther and faster. It was one of the biggest revolutions in the history of life on Earth. The result? Plants dominated Earth long before animals even showed up. And even today, they hold most of the world records: The largest organism in the world is a redwood in Northern California, 115 meters tall. Bigger than 3 blue whales laid end to end. The most massive organism is a grove of quaking aspen in Utah, all connected by the roots, weighing a total of 13 million pounds. And the oldest living thing? A patch of seagrass in the Mediterranean dating back 200,000 years. We've spent a lot of time congratulating ourselves on how awesomely magnificent and complex the human animal is, but you guys, I gotta hand it to you. So you know by now, the more specialized tissues an organism has, the more complex they are and the better they typically do. But you also know that these changes don't take place overnight. The tissues that define vascular plants didn't evolve all at once, but today we recognize three types that make these plants what they are. Dermal tissues make up their outermost layers and help prevent damage and water loss. Vascular tissues do all of that conducting of materials I just mentioned. And the most abundant tissue type, ground tissues, carry out some of the most important functions of plant life, including photosynthesis and the storage of leftover food. Now, some plants never go beyond these basics. They sprout from a germinated seed, develop these tissues, and then stop. This is called primary growth, and plants that are limited to this stage are herbaceous. As the name says, they are "like herbs" small, soft and flexible, and typically they die down to the root, or die completely, after one growing season. Pretty much everything you see growing in a backyard garden: herbs, flowers, broccoli and that kind of stuff, those are herbaceous. But a lot of vascular plants go on to secondary growth, which allows them to grow not just taller but wider. This is made possible by the development of additional tissues, particularly woody tissues. These are your woody plants, which include shrubs, bark-covered vines called lianas, and of course, your trees. But no matter how big they may or may not grow, all vascular plants are organized into three main organs, all of which you are intimately familiar with, not just because you knew what they were when you were in second grade, but also because you probably eat them every day. First, the root. It absorbs water and nutrients, and serves as a pantry of leftover food, and of course, keeps the plant anchored in the ground. Next, the stem. It contains structures that transport fluids, stores nutrients, and also is home to specialized cells called meristems that are responsible for creating new growth. But their most important task is to support the last organ: The leaf. This, of course, is where the plant exchanges gases with the atmosphere and collects sunlight to manufacture food, with the help of water and minerals collected through the root and sent up through the stem. Now, each of these organs contains all three tissues, which together work to absorb, conduct, and exploit one of the world's most important molecules: water. So, since plants are pretty much designed around water, let's follow some H2O to see how plants make the most of it. First, as with most organisms, nothing can get in or out of a plant without getting past the skin, in this case the dermal tissue. In smaller, non-woody plants, most of this is just a thin layer of cells called, fittingly, the epidermis. Naturally, this is great for keeping the outside out and the inside in, but the epidermis can also sport some snazzy features in different parts of the plant. In leaves and stems, for example, it often has a waxy outer layer called a cuticle that helps prevent water loss. On some leaves, or on pods that hold those valuable seeds, the epidermis can sprout hairlike structures called trichomes that help keep insects at bay and secrete toxic or sticky fluids. The same secretions that make the yarrow useful for first aid, for instance, are also what discourage ants from using it for lunch. Finally, in the roots, the epidermis has similar features called root hairs that maximize the root's surface area for absorption, just like we've seen in our own organ systems. This, of course, is where the plants generally absorb the water they need. By the way, the cells that make up this dermal tissue are the most basic, essential building blocks of vascular plants, called parenchyma, or "visceral flesh," cells. These are the most abundant plant cells, found not just in roots but also in stems, leaves, and flowers. They're thin and flexible and can perform all kinds of functions depending on their location. Now, after passing through the skin of the root and through its starchy cortex, or outer layer, water arrives in the first of two kinds of vascular tissue: the xylem. The xylem's main function is to carry water and dissolved minerals from the root up to the leaves. But, like, how? How, by Zeus' beard, can plants make water defy gravity? Well, a lot of the reason is that, up top, the plant is continuously evaporating water through a process called evapotranspiration. As water evaporates from the leaves, which I'll explain in greater detail when we get up there, it creates negative pressure inside the xylem, which draws more water upward. Plants can transpire truly staggering amounts of water, and it's because of this that our atmosphere is habitable. A single acre of corn gives off about 3,000 gallons of water every day. A large oak tree, just one tree, can transpire 40,000 gallons in a year. Only 1% of the water that plants absorb is actually used by plants, mostly in photosynthesis. The rest is slowly, and invisibly released, providing one of Earth's most crucial functions, transporting water from the soil into the atmosphere, where it then returns to the surface as rain, making all life possible. Yeah. Chew on that as we continue up the xylem. And as we get higher in the plant, we begin to encounter a greater diversity of cells, designed not only for moving stuff around but also for providing structural support. For instance, elongated cells with thicker cell walls, called collenchyma, help hold up the plant body, especially in herbaceous plants and young structures like new shoots. Celery is mostly made up of these cells, so you already know what they taste like. In larger, woody plants, you also find sclerenchyma cells, especially in the xylem. These have even thicker cell walls made from lignin, a super-strong polymer that makes wood woody.