What is the stem of a plant?

The term stipe in botany has several meanings, which means that it is used to refer to a specific part of different types of plants. This part can be the trunk or pseudotronk in some cases, an inflorescence in others, … it is even used to call a structure of the largest algae.

Consequently, its function varies, although we could summarize it in one word: sustain, or if you prefer, unite. Do you find it confusing? We will explain it in more detail.

What does stipe mean in botany?

The word estípite has many meanings, so to make it easier to read we have divided the article into different sections, as many as there are meanings in the term:

Pseudo-trunk (false trunk)

Cyathea brownii has a stipe

Image – Wikimedia / CT Johansson

There are certain plants that do not produce a true trunk, such as palm trees and tree ferns. This is made from the remains of petioles (stems that join the leaf blade with the trunk, stem, or branch) of the leaves that have been dying since the seed, or spore if it is a fern, germinated.

Unlike the true trunk, once it reaches its final diameter it stops gaining weight . In fact, when even that is not possible, either because they have sprouted on the asphalt, or in a terrain full of stones and / or very compact, it will stop growing as soon as it runs out of space. In addition, it does not branch, unless it has suffered significant damage (for example, that it has been struck by lightning) in its growth guide.

On the other hand, while you can know the age of a tree by counting the growth rings, which form each year, in the case of palms and ferns you can only know their age if you know when they germinated, or if you compare them with other specimens of its kind.

Floral stipe

Sundews have flower stipes

Image – Flickr / Vartax

There are many plants that do not produce solitary flowers, but many sprout from the same stem. In this specific case, the stem is a more or less short stem that joins some part of said inflorescence with the plant . Thus, depending on what its specific function is, it receives one name or another, the most common being the following:

  • Peduncle or pedicel: it is a stalk that has the non-capitular compound inflorescences which support the flower and unite it to the rest of the plant. It is also responsible for feeding said flower, since sap is transported through its interior.
  • I escape: it is a stem that does not have leaves, but it does have flowers that sprout from its end. It is present in poppies, sundews, bromeliads, amaryllis, and violets , among others.

Stipulated gynecium

The gynopodium is the stem of a flower

Image – Wikimedia / Philmarin

Continuing with the inflorescences, a stipe can also be what is known as stipulated gyneceus, or gonopodium as it is called. This is held by higher plants, such as angiosperms. In this particular case, it is an extension of the ovary and joins the thalamus, which is a structure in which the different parts of the flower are inserted.

Rostelo (orchids)

The Cochlioda has flowers in groups

Image – Wikimedia / Averater

Orchids have very sophisticated flowers, but there are some, such as those of the Cochlioda genus, which are more complex if possible. Its floral structure has a stipe, which derives from the rostello . The rostelo is a kind of sterile column that protects the polynarium, that is, where pollen is manufactured.


Very large algae have stipe

Image – Wikimedia / Chris Teague

We have talked about plants, but we cannot forget about algae. These, although they have very different characteristics to those that a cactus or a rose bush can have, for example, are also vegetable beings. And those with a large bearing, such as Nereocystis luetkeana or giant kelp, also have a stipe.

It is a structure that supports the fronds, and can measure more than thirty meters . Therefore, it is an algae that forms forests in the sea, specifically on the Pacific coast.

Do fungi have a stipe?

Amanita is a mushroom with stipe

Not all, but yes. The mushrooms of the family Agaricaceae (Agaricales), like those of the genus Amanita, have a structure that supports the hat or pileo . This stem is known as stipe, and its color varies according to the species, although the most common is that it is white. It can grow to about 2 to 10 centimeters tall and is usually cylindrical and thin.

As you can see, there are many types of stipes: some can be over 30 meters high, others, on the other hand, are much smaller, with a length of one centimeter or even less, but their function is clear: it joins two parts with the plant (u fungus), so it is undoubtedly one of the most important structures they have.

We hope you have learned a lot about them, and that from now on it will be easier for you to identify them since it could serve you not only to learn more about botany but also to design your garden.

What is the stem of a plant?

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