Plant axis that emerges from the roots, supports the branches, bears buds and shoots with leaves, and contains the vascular (conducting) tissues (xylem and phloem) that transport water, minerals, and food to other parts of the plant. The pith (a central core of spongy tissue) is surrounded by strands (in dicots; see cotyledon) or bundles (in monocots) of conducting xylem and phloem, then by the cortex and outermost epidermis, or bark. The cambium (an area of actively dividing cells) lies just below the bark. Lateral buds and leaves grow out of the stem at intervals called nodes; the intervals on the stem between the nodes are called internodes. In flowering plants, various stem modifications (rhizome, corm, tuber, bulb, stolon) let the plant survive dormantly for years, store food, or sprout asexually. All green stems perform photosynthesis, as do leaves; in plants such as the cacti (see cactus) and asparagus, the stem is the chief site of photosynthesis.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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