X is for Xylem

Xylem, who’s heard of that? Heh, you get pretty desperate with some of these alphabet letters when you’re sticking to local nature stuff.

But not in this case!

Xylem is all around you. Well, us squirrels anyway since we live outdoors. We find xylem in young tender stems when we chew on them; it’s just beneath the bark of woody plants, the stems, branches and trunks. See the dark shadow where the bark is splitting from the wood? The xylem was right there.

Xylem isn’t the dead, woody stuff; it’s the living tissue that carries water (funny how that’s coming up again) upward from the roots of the plants. Picture it as stacks of cells making “straws” to carry water and dissolved nutrients from the soil. Xylem only works going UP. Miz Flora says, “A whole ‘nother system carries sugars made in the leaves DOWN—phloem. You can remember that by remembering P is for phloem and P is for photosynthesis, which is what makes the sugars.”

If you peer even closer at the tree rings, you can see the little holes in the wood. Those are the xylem and phloem cells at the end of each years’ growth.

Strange words, I thought, so went online to check them out.

Xylem is from the Greek word xulon, for wood and phloem is from the Greek word phloos for bark.


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