Pith, or medulla, is a tissue in the stems of vascular plants. Pith is composed of soft, spongy parenchyma cells, which store and transport nutrients throughout the plant. In eudicots, pith is located in the center of the stem. In monocots, it extends also into flowering stems and roots. The pith is encircled by a ring of xylem; outside followed by a ring of phloem.
While new pith growth is usually white or pale in color, as the tissue ages it commonly darkens to a deeper brown color. In trees pith is generally present in young growth, but in the trunk and older branches the pith often gets replaced - in great part - by xylem. In some plants, the pith in the middle of the stem may dry out and disintegrate, resulting in a hollow stem. A few plants, such as walnuts, have distinctive chambered pith with numerous short cavities (See image at bottom right). The cells in the peripheral parts of the pith may, in some plants, develop to be different from cells in the rest of the pith. This layer of cells is then called the perimedullary region of the pithamus. An example of this can be observed in Hedera helix, a species of ivy.
The term pith is also used to refer to the pale, spongy inner layer of the rind - more properly called mesocarp or albedo - of citrus fruits (such as oranges) and other hesperidia. The word comes from the Old English word piþa, meaning substance, akin to Middle Dutch pitt, meaning the pit of a fruit.
The pith of the sola or other similar plants is used to make the pith helmet.
The pith of some plants, such as sago, is edible to humans.
Famous quotes containing the word pith:
“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied oer with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.”
—William Shakespeare (15641616)
“So much of our time is preparation, so much is routine, and so much retrospect, that the pith of each mans genius contracts itself to a very few hours.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)