Many plants take up soluble monosilicic acid from the soil. Some of these plants subsequently deposit it as cell inclusions of characteristic structure. This article describes the distribution and diversity of opaline silica bodies in monocotyledons in a phylogenetic framework, together with a review of techniques used for their examination, and the ecology, function and economic applications of these cell inclusions. There are several different morphological forms of silica in monocot tissues, and the number of silica bodies per cell may also vary. The most common type is the “druse-like” spherical body, of which there is normally a single body per cell, more in some cases. Other forms include the conical type and an amorphous, fragmentary type (silica sand). Silica bodies are most commonly found either in the epidermis (e.g., in grasses, commelinas and sedges) or in the sheath cells of vascular bundles (e.g., in palms, bananas and orchids). Silica-bearing cells are most commonly associated either with subepidermal sclerenchyma or bundle-sheath sclerenchyma. Silica bodies are found only in orchids and commelinids, not in other lilioid or basal monocots. In orchids, silica bodies are entirely absent from subfamilies Vanilloideae and Orchidoideae and most Epidendroideae but present in some Cypripedioideae and in the putatively basal orchid subfamily Apostasioideae. Among commelinid monocots, silica bodies are present in all palms, Dasypogonaceae and Zingiberales but present or absent in different taxa of Poales and Commelinales, with at least four separate losses of silica bodies in Poales.
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