Hedera helix is able to climb relatively smooth vertical surfaces, creating a strong, long lasting adhesion with a force of around 300 nN. This is accomplished through a complex method of attachment starting as adventitious roots growing along the stem make contact with the surface and extend root hairs that range from 20-400 μm in length. These tiny hairs grow into any small crevices available, secrete glue-like nanoparticles, and lignify. As they dry out, the hairs shrink and curl, effectively pulling the root closer to the surface. The glue-like substance is a nano composite adhesive that consists of uniform spherical nanoparticles 50-80 nm in diameter in a liquid polymer matrix. Chemical analyses of the nanoparticles detected only trace amounts of metals, once thought to be responsible for their high strength, indicating that they are largely organic. Recent work has shown that the nanoparticles are likely composed in large part of arabinogalactan proteins (AGPs), which exist in other plant adhesives as well. The matrix portion of the composite is made of pectic polysaccharides. Calcium ions present in the matrix induce interactions between carboxyl groups of these components, causing a cross linking that hardens the adhesive.
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