Leaf Epicuticular Waxes

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Science  09 Jun 1967:
Vol. 156, Issue 3780, pp. 1322-1335
DOI: 10.1126/science.156.3780.1322


The external surface of the higher plants comprises a cuticular layer covered by a waxy deposit. This deposit is believed to play a major part in such phenomena as the water balance of plants and the behavior of agricultural sprays. The wax contains a wide range of organic compounds. These complex mixtures are amenable to modern microchromatographic and microspectrometric analytical procedures. The few surveys which have been made of the species distribution of certain classes of constituents indicate that such distribution may be of limited taxonomic value; however, the wax composition of a species may differ for different parts of the same plant and may vary with season, locale, and the age of the plant.

This fascinating subject, in which the disciplines of botany, biochemistry, chemistry, and physics overlap and interact, is still in a very active state. Much remains to be learned about the composition and fine structure of the wax deposits, and, for this, experimental study of wax crystallization and permeation through artificial membranes will be required. Enzymic studies, radiolabeling, and electron microscopy will be needed to reveal the mode of biogenesis of the wax constituents and their site of formation and subsequent pathway through the cuticle to the leaf surface.

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