The aim of this work was to determine the anatomical adaptations of leaves and stems of four species of Poaceae (Cynodon dactylon L. Pers., Chloris barbata SW. (Chloridoideae), Setaria verticillata L. P. Beauv., and Panicum coloratum L. (Panicoideae)) growing naturally at Al-Ha'ir region near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Cross-sections of the leaves revealed that the epidermis cells were spherical to oval and formed one layer with a thick cuticle as well as numerous bulliform cells in a fan shape and prickles. Ground tissue (mesophyll) consists mostly of chlorenchyma cells. A large vascular bundle surrounded by two bundle sheaths, outer sheath parenchyma and inner sheath sclerenchyma were observed in C. barbata and C. dactylon, while one bundle sheath of sclerenchyma surrounds the vascular bundle in S. verticillata and P. coloratum, while one bundle sheath with chlorenchymatous cells surrounded the small vascular bundles. Our results showed that all species contained a Kranz anatomy indicative of a C4 photosynthetic pathway despite belonging to two different subfamilies, Panicoideae and Chloridoideae. Oil droplets appeared in the mesophyll tissue of P. coloratum and S. verticillata. Cross-sections of stems revealed an epidermis which consists of one layer of cells with spherical to oval shape and had a thick cuticle. Ground tissue contains strands of chlorenchyma cells followed by sclerenchyma tissue surrounding vascular bundles, thereby making a continuous cylinder. The vascular bundles were scattered in the ground tissue, with each vascular bundle surrounded by a single sclerenchymatous bundle sheath. Our results indicate that these plants were characterized by anatomical adaptations that enhance drought-tolerance capabilities, facilitating survival in arid and semi-arid regions such as Al-Ha'ir and thus these plants can be used to increase vegetation cover and pasture area in dry environments.
Key words: Anatomy, adaptations, Poaceae, Cynodon dactylon, Chloris barbata, Setaria verticillata, Panicum coloratum.
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