Anatomy of the vegetative organs of two species of Atriplex (Chenopodiaceae), growing in Venezuela
In Venezuela, Atriplex is represented by A. cristata and A. oestophora, the latter being endemic; they inhabit coastal areas with high temperatures, high solar radiation and sandy soils with high salt content. This work aimed to provide information to facilitate and clarify these species taxonomic delimitation, throughout the study of the anatomy of their vegetative organs; this may also clarify our understanding of their adaptability to soil and climatic conditions prevailing in areas they inhabit. The plant material was collected from at least three individuals of each species in Punta Taima Taima and Capatárida, Falcon. Segments of roots, located near the neck and towards the apex, apical, middle and basal internodes of stems, were taken; and of leaves, located in the middle portion of plants. This material was fixed in FAA (formaldehyde, acetic acid, 70% ethanol) until processing. Semipermanent and permanent microscope slides were prepared with transverse or longitudinal sections, made using a razor (free-hand) or a rotation microtome, in this latter case, after paraffin embedding; besides, additional plates were mounted with portions of leaf epidermis, obtained by the maceration technique. The sections were stained with aqueous toluidine blue (1%) or safranin-fast-green, and mounted in water-glycerin or in Canada balsam. In order to calculate the vulnerability index, the vessel diameter in the vascular rings of roots, as well as their density, were quantified. Our results revealed structural features in the different organs, that resulted of taxonomic value and allowed the distinction of the species: in the leaf, the presence of aquifer tissue, the number of vascular bundles and their organization in the midrib, and the collenchyma differentiation in this part of the leaf; in the roots, the xylem and phloem arrangement in the growth rings, the nature of conjunctive tissue, and the presence of included phloem in one species. In addition, the species showed typical anatomical features of halophytes and xerophytes, such as: high density of trichomes on leaves and young stems which act as salt secreting glands, abundant sclerenchyma in stems and roots, water storage tissue and Kranz anatomy in leaves, narrow cortical region in young roots, presence of cambial variants in stems and roots, as well as short and narrow xylem vessels. Vulnerability index calculations indicated that both species tend to assure conduction but not the efficiency of the system. Atriplex species have anatomical characters which facilitate their adaptation to the special conditions prevailing in their habitats and that may be used for taxonomic delimitation.