Vegetative reproduction is a form of asexual propagation in plants. A wide range of plants develop rhizomes, modified stems that grow underground horizontally, as a means of vegetative reproduction. In rhizomatous species, despite their distinct developmental patterns, both rhizomes and aerial shoots derive from axillary buds. Therefore, it is of interest to understand the basis of rhizome initiation and development. Oryza longistaminata, a wild rice species, develops rhizomes. We analyzed bud initiation and growth of O. longistaminata rhizomes using various methods of morphological observation. We show that, unlike aerial shoot buds that contain a few leaves only, rhizome buds initiate several leaves and bend to grow at right angles to the original rhizome. Rhizomes are maintained in the juvenile phase irrespective of the developmental phase of the aerial shoot. Stem elongation and reproductive transition are tightly linked in the aerial shoots, but are uncoupled in the rhizome. Our findings indicate that developmental programs operate independently in the rhizomes and aerial shoots. Temporal modification of the developmental pathways that are common to rhizomes and aerial shoots may be the source of developmental plasticity. Furthermore, the creation of new developmental systems appears to be necessary for rhizome development.
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