The measure of biological age in plant modular systems

Acta Biotheoretica 38 (2) (1990)
Abstract
Phytomorphology — if concerned with development — often concentrates on correlative changes of form and neglects the aspects of age, time and clock, although the plant's spatial and temporal organisation are intimately interconnected. Common age as measured in physical time by a physical process is compared to biological age as measured by a biological clock based on a biological process. A typical example for a biological clock on the organ level is, for example, a shoot. Its biological age is measured by the biological time unit of a plastochron, which itself is defined by the cyclic-periodic initiation of the leaves. In a controlled environment biological age may replace physical age. However, biological and physical age are not necessarily linearly convertible into each other. In stationary or steady state conditions the repetitive initiation of any organ, unit or module of an articulate plant or plant modular system may define the biological time unit. A linear — monotonous biological process, e.g. axis elongation, may also define a biological time unit as a certain amount of additional growth, e.g. of length. One may speak of periodical and of continuous plastochron or, perhaps, of plastochron and rheochron. A precise measure of biological age is the generalized plastochron index applying to any modular system and module respectively. However, one should be aware that it is based on two clocks, one of them referring to the periodic process of module initiation for counting the integer plastochrons and the other to the continuous plastochron of module growth for the determination of the fraction of one plastochron. The application of the concepts is restricted to phases of stationary or steady state growth and development. In certain cases of non-stationary or non-steady state conditions a normalized-age concept may apply.
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