Parenchyma is an important living tissue of plants, where this versatile cell type can be found in the cortex and pith of stems, in the cortex of toots, the mesophyll of leaves, in the pulp of fruit and finally in the endosperm of seeds. It can also be found in the secondary xylem of more mature wood of both stems and roots. Their functions are numerous, ranging from storage and metabolism, to wound repair and more specialised functions such as aeration (e.g. in the roots of mangrove species) and support. Parenchyma is split into two main types, axial and radial parenchyma, with both types imparting with different functions, although closely allied however, where together they form a highly interconnected three dimensional network.

The purpose of my doctorate studies is to further elucidate the functional significance of both radial and axial parenchyma in the secondary xylem of woody plants and to help solve the puzzle as to why certain species have a very low proportion of parenchyma in their wood when compared to others. In order to do this we have to look closely at evolutionary trends between closely related species along with their morphological adaptation to contrasting eco-regions. For an example, we will look at closely related woody plants from both temperate and tropical biomes and attempt to solve why there are such significant differences in the amount of parenchyma between them. A multidisciplinary approach is required here, which will bring together the disciplines of both wood anatomy and plant eco-physiology, where the findings should hugely contribute towards our understanding of plant growth and function.