Dead pipes can still regulate plants’ water

5:59pm, January 29, 2001

In a new twist on zombie botany, Harvard University physiologists have found that the pipes in a plant's water plumbing can regulate the flow speed, despite the disability of being dead.

The stack of dead cells, called xylem vessel members, respond to what's in the water whipping through, report Maciej A. Zwieniecki and his colleagues. When the cells carry high concentrations of calcium, potassium, or other ions, the researchers say, membranes between cells become more porous, speeding the stream.

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