A remarkable, almost fur-like “indumentum” of velvety “hairs” (sometimes referred to as “fungi”) occurs on the roots (and to a lesser extent also on the trunk) of Lannea schweinfurthii var. stuhlmannii and is known as vhulivhadza in the Venda language (Tshivenḓa). The hairs are traditionally used by the Venda people (Vhavenḓa) of the Limpopo Province of South Africa, for various biocultural purposes. A detailed anatomical study of the origin, structure and development of these unusual “hairs” showed that they are of peridermal origin and develop from dense clusters of phelloid cells which are scattered within the stratified phellem. These cells are capable of considerable radial elongation thus forming hair-like radial files of elongated phelloid cells. The “hairy” patches on the bark may also develop from lenticels which become hypertrophied. These clusters of phelloid cells resemble the hyperhydric tissue which is reportedly formed in periderm of stems exposed to a water-saturated environment in some plant species. The formation of hyperhydric-like tissue in roots and stems of L. schweinfurthii var. stuhlmannii occurs, however, under relatively arid conditions. Since this tissue contains large intercellular spaces, it may also be regarded as a specialized type of aerenchymatous phellem. The adaptive significance, if any, of the phelloid “hairs” remains unknown.
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VerbovenPPedersenOHerremansEHoQTNicolaïBMColmerTDTeakleNL. 2012. Root aeration via aerenchymatous phellem: three-dimensional micro-imaging and radial O2 profiles in Melilotus siculus. New Phytol.193: 420–431.