Mathematical principles and models of plant growth mechanics: from cell wall dynamics to tissue morphogenesis

Euan Smithers, Jingxi Luo, Rosemary Dyson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
172 Downloads (Pure)


Plant growth research produces a catalogue of complex open questions. We argue that plant growth is a highly mechanical process, and that mathematics gives an underlying framework with which to probe its fundamental unrevealed mechanisms. This review serves to illustrate the biological insights afforded by mathematical modelling and demonstrate the breadth of mathematically-rich problems available within plant sciences, thereby promoting a mutual appreciation across the disciplines. On the one hand, we explain the general mathematical principles behind mechanical growth models; on the other, we describe how modelling addresses specific problems in microscale cell wall mechanics, tip growth, morphogenesis and stress feedback. We conclude by identifying possible future directions for both biologists and mathematicians, including as-yet unanswered questions within various topics, stressing that interdisciplinary collaboration is vital for tackling the challenge of understanding plant growth mechanics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3587–3600
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number14
Early online date24 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • growth
  • mechanics
  • microtubules
  • modelling
  • morphogenesis
  • pollen tubes
  • shoot apical meristem


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