Two Growth Patterns

The endophytes of grasses differ in growth habit from those of woody plants (both coniferous and angiospermous). Grass endophytes have been found to grow systemically, throughout the stems and leaves, of the mature plant, producing substantial fungal biomass. Hyphae, or filaments, of the fungal body even penetrate the grass ovule, which is the reproductive structure that develops into the seed. Via the infected seed, the fungus is transmitted to the next generation and thus is perpetuated down a plant's lineage.

In contrast, in most of the woody plants that have been investigated, individual endophytes are not systemic but instead are localized within leaves or stems, where they may be confined to specific plant tissues, such as bark or xylem (wood). Woodyplant endophytes typically propagate not by invading the host's ovule but rather via spores, which are carried to other plants by air, water, or animals. Presumably, the spores are able to disperse because they are not produced inside the plant host but rather on plant parts that have dropped off or are dying. This subject has been little investigated, however.

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