University Of Tasmania
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No cell is an island: characterising the leaf epidermis using EPIDERMALMORPH, a new R package

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 15:13 authored by Brown, MJM, Gregory JordanGregory Jordan
The leaf epidermis is the interface between a plant and its environment. The epidermis is highly variable in morphology, with links to both phylogeny and environment, and this diversity is relevant to several fields, including physiology, functional traits, palaeobotany, taxonomy and developmental biology.Describing and measuring leaf epidermal traits remains challenging. Current approaches are either extremely labour-intensive and not feasible for large studies or limited to measurements of individual cells. Here, we present a method to characterise individual cell size, shape (including the effect of neighbouring cells) and arrangement from light microscope images. We provide the first automated characterisation of cell arrangement (from traced images) as well as multiple new shape characteristics. We have implemented this method in an R package, epidermalmorph, and provide an example workflow using this package, which includes functions to evaluate trait reliability and optimal sampling effort for any given group of plants. We demonstrate that our new metrics of cell shape are independent of gross cell shape, unlike existing metrics. epidermalmorph provides a broadly applicable method for quantifying epidermal traits that we hope can be used to disentangle the fundamental relationships between form and function in the leaf epidermis.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

New Phytologist








School of Natural Sciences


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© 2022 The Authors, New Phytologist © 2022 New Phytologist Foundation. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons License, Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences