• Background and Aims \ud Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a fast-growing herbaceous annual with a semi-self-supporting, scrambling-ascending growth habit. Mature plants often use upright species for support. It is common in hedgerows and on waste ground. This study aims to characterize the mechanical behaviour of the stem and roots of cleavers and relate this to the arrangement of structural tissue, the net microfibrillar orientations in the cell walls, and plant growth habit. \ud \ud • Methods The morphology and mechanics of mature cleavers was investigated using plants grown in pots and ones collected from the grounds at the University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK. Tensile tests were carried out on the stem and the basal section of the first-order lateral roots. The net orientation of cellulose microfibrils in the cell walls was investigated using polarized light microscopy. \ud \ud • Key Results Results show that the basal regions of the stem and first-order lateral roots were highly extensible. Breaking strains of 24 ± 7 % were recorded for the stem base and 28 ± 6 % for the roots. Anatomical observations showed that the lower stem (base + 100 mm) was circular in cross-section with a solid central core of vascular tissue, whereas further up the stem the transverse section showed a typical four-angled shape with a ring-like arrangement of vascular tissue and sclerenchyma bundles in the corners. The net orientation of wall microfibrils in the secondary xylem diverges from the longitudinal by between 8 and 9°. \ud \ud • Conclusions The basal region of the stem of cleavers is highly extensible, but the mechanism by which the stem is able to withstand such high breaking strains is unclear; reorientation of the cellulose fibrils in the stem along the axis of loading is not thought to be responsible. \ud \ud \ud Key words: Anatomy, adaptation, cleavers, Galium aparine, growth habit, mechanics, cellulose microfibril orientation, extensibilit
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