An incredible amount of information is contained in the very first few millimeters of the leaflet margin of species in the Neotropical palm genus Syagrus.
In fact, this tiny leaf slice carries enough information to identify the species to which it belongs. In a new key to the Neotropical palm genus Syagrus, published in the open access journal PhytoKeys, scientists demonstrate how this technique could be useful in species identification when other morphological characters fail to give definite answers.
The manuscript not only demonstrates the benefits of using leaflet anatomy, but also teaches how to use simple leaflet-slicing or sectioning techniques that plant scientists can apply to their own species identification research.
Leaf-slicing techniques are not new to botany and there is a number of ways to hand section leaflet margins, which neither require expensive hardware or use of chemicals and dyes, making the method accessible in almost all settings.
In fact, what Dr. Larry R. Noblick from the Montgomery Botanical Center, Florida, USA, proposes in his paper is a technique using a small straight razor and a piece of carrot to obtain the palm leaflet slices used in his research.
"One can easily and quickly access a lot of information from simple cross-sections that is helpful not only to identify species but to even show crude relationships within a group. We demonstrate the technique for palms from the Syagrus genus, but we strongly believe it may be found useful in other plant groups as well," explains the author.
Noblick LR (2017) Key to Syagrus identification using leaflet margin anatomy: Supplement to "A revision of Syagrus (Arecaceae)". PhytoKeys 81: 19-46. https://doi.org/10.3897/phytokeys.81.12909