Plant Biology, Department of Biology, Fribourg, Switzerland
Plant architecture is characterized by a high degree of regularity. Leaves, flowers and floral organs are arranged in regular patterns, a phenomenon referred to as phyllotaxis. Regular phyllotaxis is found in virtually all higher plants, from mosses, over ferns, to gymnosperms and angiosperms. Due to its remarkable precision, its beauty and its accessibility, phyllotaxis has for centuries been the object of admiration and scientific examination. There have been numerous hypotheses to explain the nature of the mechanistic principle behind phyllotaxis, however, not all of them have been amenable to experimental examination. This is due mainly to the delicacy and small size of the shoot apical meristem, where plant organs are formed and the phyllotactic patterns are laid down. Recently, the combination of genetics, molecular tools and micromanipulation has resulted in the identification of auxin as a central player in organ formation and positioning. This paper discusses some aspects of phyllotactic patterns found in nature and summarizes our current understanding of the regulatory mechanism behind phyllotaxis.