Background and Aims Intervascular pit membranes were examined within Ericales to determine the distribution and structure of torus-like thickenings. Methods Forty-nine species representing 12 families of the order Ericales were investigated using light, scanning and transmission electron microscopy. They were compared with four species of Oleaceae to determine the true nature of the thickenings. Key Results Pit membranes with torus-like thickenings were observed in seven species of Ericaceae and were found to be amorphous, plasmodesmata-associated structures with an irregular distribution. These pseudo-tori show major differences compared with true tori with respect to their distribution and ultrastructure. Genuine tori, which are strongly correlated with round pit apertures in narrow tracheary elements, were found in two species of Osmanthus (Oleaceae). Conclusions The pseudo-tori found in some Ericaceae are considered to be similar to pit membrane thickenings previously recorded in Rosaceae. While true tori appear to be functionally significant in terms of efficiency and safety of water transport, the possible function of pseudo-tori could be associated with the role of plasmodesmata during differentiation of tracheids, fibre-tracheids or narrow vessels.

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Annals of Botany
Staff publications

Rabaey, D., Lens, F., Smets, E., & Janssen, S. (2006). The Micromorphology of Pit Membranes in Tracheary Elements of Ericales: New Records of Tori or Pseudo-tori?. Annals of Botany, 98(5), 943–951.