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Although higher plants have an erect shoot system, many species have specialized stems that are

modified for various functions. The overall appearance of specialized stems may differ markedly
from that of the stems discussed so far, but all stems have nodes, internodes, and axillary buds;
these features distinguish them from roots and leaves, which do not have them. The leaves at the
nodes of these specialized stems are often small and scale like. They are seldom green, but fullsized functioning leaves may also be produced.
Stems are often specialized for storage, asexual reproduction, protection or photosynthesis,
including the following:

Acaulescent used to describe stems in plants that appear to be stem less. Actually
these stems are just extremely short, the leaves appearing to rise directly out of the
ground, e.g. some Viola species.

Arborescent tree like with woody stems normally with a single trunk.

Bracts are modified leaves at the base of flowers or flower stalks. Some are highly
colored and resemble petals (e.g. the red petals of poinsettia are bracts surrounding the
small, yellow flowers).

Branched - aerial stems are described as being branched or unbranched

Bud an embryonic shoot with immature stem tip.

Bulb a short vertical underground stem with fleshy storage leaves attached, e.g. onion,
daffodil, tulip. Bulbs often function in reproduction by splitting to form new bulbs or
producing small new bulbs termed bulblets. Bulbs are a combination of stem and leaves
so may better be considered as leaves because the leaves make up the greater part.

Caespitose when stems grow in a tangled mass or clump or in low growing mats.

Cladode (including phylloclade) a flattened stem that appears more-or-less leaf

like and is specialized for photosynthesis,[2] e.g. cactus pads.

Climbing stems that cling or wrap around other plants or structures.

Corm a short enlarged underground, storage stem, e.g. taro, crocus, gladiolus.

Decumbent stems that lie flat on the ground and turn upwards at the ends.

Fruticose stems that grow shrub like with woody like habit.

Herbaceous non woody, they die at the end of the growing season.

Pedicel stems that serve as the stalk of an individual flower in an inflorescence or


Peduncle a stem that supports an inflorescence

Prickle a sharpened extension of the stem's outer layers, (e.g. rose and raspberry)

Pseudostem a false stem made of the rolled bases of leaves, which may be 2 or 3 m
tall as in banana

Rhizome a horizontal underground stem that functions mainly in reproduction but also
in storage, e.g. most ferns, iris, fresh ginger roots sold in grocery stores are rhizomes)

Runner (plant part) a type of stolon, horizontally growing on top of the ground and
rooting at the nodes, aids in reproduction. e.g. garden strawberry, Chlorophytum

Scape a stem that holds flowers that comes out of the ground and has no normal
leaves. Hosta, Lily, Iris, Garlic.

Stipules are paired scales, glands, or leaflike structures at the base of the petiole formed
from leaf or stem tissue (e.g. black locust).

Stolon a horizontal stem that produces rooted plantlets at its nodes and ends, forming
near the surface of the ground. (e.g. strawberry plants, and a host of the most pernicious
garden weeds)

Spines are small, unbranched, sharp outgrowths of leaf tissue in which the parenchyma
is replaced by sclerenchyma (e.g. cactus).

Tendrils - can be exclusively leaf tissue (e.g. pea leaflets, nasturtium petioles, or
cucumber leaves that twine and aid in supporting the shoots) or they can be modified
special shoots with thin, modified stems (e.g. morning glories, grapes, and Boston ivy).

Thorn a modified stem with a sharpened point. Are woody, sharply pointed branch stems
(e.g. honey locust).

Tuber a swollen, underground storage stem adapted for storage and reproduction,
fleshy underground stems modified to store starch (e.g. white, or Irish, potatoes)

Woody hard textured stems with secondary xylem.