Structural and mechanical design of tissue interfaces in the giant reed Arundo donax
The culms of the giant reed Arundo donax represent slender tube-like structures. Several nodes along the culm, a ring of sclerenchymatous fibres in the periphery of the culm wall and numerous isolated vascular bundles enclosed by fibre rings in the culm wall function as stiffening elements. The bundles are embedded in lignified parenchyma. Micromechanical analysis indicated differences in stiffness between the individual tissues of more than one order of magnitude. In case of abrupt transitions in stiffness at the interfaces, stress discontinuities arise under dynamic loads. This eventually leads to critical shear stresses at cell ends, and culm failure may be initiated at these points. Pronounced mechanical differences between individual tissues can be compromised by gradual transitions at their interfaces. Ultrastructural and spectroscopic investigations with high spatial resolution revealed a gradual transition of cell parameters (cell wall area fraction and cell length). However, cell wall parameters (cellulose microfibril angle and lignin content) showed abrupt transitions or remained almost constant across the interfaces between various tissues. The design principles found at the interfaces between tissues in the culm walls of A. donax are discussed as an adaptation strategy to mechanical loads at different levels of hierarchy.