Research

How some leaves got fat: It’s the veins

Ring of veins

Veins, internal to the dark purple-stained mucilage deposits of this cross-section of a succulent Phemeranthus teretifolius leaf, are arranged in a ring shape that reduces the distance between veins and photosynthetic cells. Credit: Matt Ogburn.

A garden variety leaf is a broad, flat structure, but if the garden happens to be somewhere arid, it probably includes succulent plants with plump leaves full of precious water. Fat leaves did not emerge in the plant world easily. A new Brown University study published in Current Biology reports that to sustain efficient photosynthesis, they required a fundamental remodeling of leaf vein structure: the addition of a third dimension