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Journal of Botany
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 318163, 9 pages
Review Article

Phytoliths as Emerging Taxonomic Tools for Identification of Plants: An Overview

Plant Systematics and Biodiversity Laboratory, Department of Botanical and Environmental Sciences, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab 143005, India

Received 24 January 2014; Revised 30 April 2014; Accepted 2 May 2014; Published 29 May 2014

Academic Editor: Muhammad Y. Ashraf

Copyright © 2014 Sheikh Abdul Shakoor and Mudassir Ahmad Bhat. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In the recent advancements in identification of plant species, phytoliths have found an immense role in the identification of plants at different levels of taxonomic hierarchy. Many plant groups are known to accumulate silica in solid form in and between the cells and tissues and hence create the structures commonly known as phytoliths. These phytoliths create replicas of the structures where they are deposited. The shapes of phytolith replicas, their size dimensions (morphometric parameters), surface features (ornamentation), distribution, and orientation pattern in epidermal layers of vegetative and reproductive structures as well as their frequency are highly important for characterization of species. Monocotyledonous families particularly the family Poaceae (Gramineae) are known to produce diverse phytolith types that can serve as diagnostic markers for characterization of different taxa at different levels of taxonomic hierarchy. The present paper highlights the importance of phytoliths in taxonomic analysis of plants particularly in the family Poaceae.