Fibre cables and tensegrity in Typha leaves

Witztum and Wayne dissect leaves of various species of Typha, and examine the fibre cables – composed of long, non-lignified cells – that traverse the air chambers (lacunae).
Fibre cables and tensegrity in Typha leaves
Fibre cables and tensegrity in Typha leaves

Some tall species of Typha (cattails/bulrushes) are able to withstand hurricane-force winds. Witztum and Wayne  dissect leaves of various species and examine the fibre cables – composed of long, non-lignified cells – that traverse the air chambers (lacunae). They find that the cellulose microfibrils that make up the walls of the cable-fibres are oriented parallel to the long axis of the fibres and make the cables strong under tension. Dorsal and ventral leaf surfaces and partitions contain lignified fibre bundles and vascular strands that are strong under compression, and in combination the result is a tensegrity structure that creates wind-resistant ‘multiple load paths’ through which stresses can be redistributed throughout the tall, upright leaves.