Hands-on teaching models for plant xylem anatomy
Our goal with this project is to make the high-resolution X-ray micro-computed tomography (microCT) data available for anyone interested in the structure and function of plant vascular systems. As part of our National Science Foundation grant (IOS#1557917*) we are developing a series of representative xylem network models from four hardwood tree species common in the Northeastern United States (Red Oak, White Ash, Red Maple, and American Beech). These models will include examples from various tissue types to illustrate how xylem structure changes within the plant leaves, stems, trunks, and roots. This is all part of a larger project to determine how the connections between xylem vessels influence their drought tolerance. The original microCT data were collected at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Advanced Light Source (beamline 8.3.2, microct.lbl.gov).
Here are four examples of the 3D capabilities available for exploring our models on your computer or mobile phone. Press the “Play” button below, and you’ll be able to manipulate (i.e. rotate, zoom) the sample with your computer mouse (or other pointing device). You can also try clicking the “View in VR” option in the lower right corner of the window after the “Play” button has been pressed. This will bring up a stereoscopic view of the model that can be viewed with a VR headset such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, or even a Google Cardboard headset. The first model is a microCT scan of a Red Maple (Acer rubrum) root, the second is White Pine (Pinus strobus) wood, the third is a piece of a red maple (Quercus rubra) stem wood, and the final sample shows three annual rings from white Ash (Fraxinus americana). Click the little numbers/annotations to see the different anatomical features visible in the models.