Thorns, spines and prickles

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Botanists use three different words for sharp things on plants. They are thorns, spines, and prickles. Thorns are the ends of branches that are hard and sharp. Spines are hard structures with sharp ends. There are many different kinds of spines, some on leaves, some grow instead of leaves. Prickles are on the outside of stems.

Spines, prickles, and thorns protect plants from plant-eating animals (defence against herbivory). Some plants and animals, such as the acacia tree and giraffe have evolved in response to each other. The plants grow very long spines and the animals develop very long tongues to reach past the spines and feed on the leaves.

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References[change | change source]

  • Esau, K. 1965. Plant Anatomy, 2nd Edition. John Wiley & Sons. 767 pp.
  • Llamas, K. A. 2003. Tropical Flowering Plants. Timber Press, Portland. 423 pp.