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   » » Wiki: Latex
Tag Wiki 'Latex'.

Latex is a stable dispersion () of in an . It is found in nature, but synthetic latexes can be made by a such as that has been with .

Latex as found in nature is a milky found in 10% of all flowering plants (). It is a complex emulsion consisting of , , , , , , , and that on exposure to air. It is usually exuded after tissue injury. In most plants, latex is white, but some have yellow, orange, or scarlet latex. Since the 17th century, latex has been used as a term for the fluid substance in plants. It serves mainly as defense against . Latex is not to be confused with ; it is a separate substance, separately produced, and with separate functions.

The word latex is also used to refer to natural latex , particularly non- rubber. Such is the case in products like latex , latex and .

Originally, the name given to latex by indigenous Equator tribes who cultivated the plant was “caoutchouc”, from the words “caa” (tear) and “ochu” (tree), because of the way it is collected.


Articulated laticifers
The cells () in which latex is found make up the laticiferous system, which can form in two very different ways. In many plants, the laticiferous system is formed from rows of cells laid down in the of the or . The between these cells are dissolved so that continuous tubes, called latex vessels, are formed. Since these vessels are made of many cells, they are known as articulated laticifers. This method of formation is found in the and in the trees (Para rubber tree, members of the family , members of the , such as the Panama rubber tree Castilla elastica), and members of the family . For instance, Parthenium argentatum the guayule plant, is in the tribe ; other latex-bearing Asteraceae with articulated laticifers include members of the , a whose members produce latex, some of them in commercially interesting amounts. This includes Taraxacum kok-saghyz, a species cultivated for latex production.

Non-articulated laticifers
In the and families, on the other hand, the laticiferous system is formed quite differently. Early in the development of the seedling, latex cells differentiate, and as the plant grows these latex cells grow into a branching system extending throughout the plant. In many , the entire structure is made from a single cell – this type of system is known as a non-articulated laticifer, to distinguish it from the multi-cellular structures discussed above. In the mature plant, the entire laticiferous system is descended from a single cell or group of cells present in the .

The laticiferous system is present in all parts of the mature plant, including roots, stems, , and sometimes the . It is particularly noticeable in the cortical tissues. Latex is usually exuded as a white liquid, but is some cases it can be clear, yellow or red, as in .

Productive species
Latex is produced by 20,000 species from over 40 occurring in multiple lineages in both and types of plant. It is also found in and . Among tropical plant species 14% create latex, as opposed to 6% of temperate plant species. Several members of the fungal kingdom also produce latex upon injury, such as Lactarius deliciosus and other . This suggests it is the product of convergent evolution and has been selected for on many separate occasions.

Defense function
Latex functions to protect the plant from herbivores. The idea was first proposed in 1887 by Joseph F. James, who noted that latex
carries with it at the same time such disagreeable properties that it becomes a better protection to the plant from enemies than all the thorns, prickles, or hairs that could be provided. In this plant, so copious and so distasteful has the sap become that it serves a most important purpose in its economy.
Evidence showing this defense function include the finding that will eat leaves drained of their latex but not intact ones, that many insects sever the veins carrying latex before they feed, and that the latex of Asclepias humistrata (sandhill ) kills by trapping 30% of newly hatched monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Other evidence is that latex contains 50–1000× higher concentrations of defense substances than other plant tissues. These toxins include ones that are also toxic to the plant and consist of a diverse range of chemicals that are either poisonous or "". Latex is actively moved to the area of injury; in the case of Cryptostegia grandiflora, this can be more than 70 cm.

The clotting property of latex is functional in this defense since it limits wastage and its stickiness traps insects and their mouthparts.

It has been noted that while there exist other explanations for the existence of latex including storage and movement of plant nutrients, waste, and maintenance of water balance that "essentially none of these functions remain credible and none have any empirical support".

The latex of many species can be processed to produce many materials.

is the most important product obtained from latex; more than 12,000 plant species yield latex containing rubber, though in the vast majority of those species the rubber is not suitable for commercial use. This latex is used to make many other products including , , , , and .

Balatá and latex contain an inelastic polymer related to rubber.

Latex from the and trees is used in .

Dried latex from the opium poppy is called , the source of several useful , such as , and , as well as the street drug .

Synthetic latexes are used in (e.g. latex paint) and because they solidify by coalescence of the polymer particles as the water evaporates, and therefore can form films without releasing potentially toxic organic solvents in the environment. Other uses include cement additives, and to conceal information on . Latex, usually -based, is also used in .

Latex is used in many types of . Worn on the body (or applied directly by painting) it tends to be skin-tight, producing a "second skin" effect.

Allergic reactions
Some people only experience a when exposed to latex, like , contact dermatitis or developing a .

Others have a serious , and exposure to latex products such as can cause anaphylactic shock. latex has only 2% of the levels of protein found in latexes, and is being researched as a lower-allergen substitute. Additionally, chemical processes may be employed to reduce the amount of antigenic protein in Hevea latex, yielding alternative materials such as Vytex Natural Rubber Latex which provide significantly reduced exposure to latex allergens.

About half of people with are also allergic to natural latex rubber, as well as people who have had multiple surgeries, and people who have had prolonged exposure to natural latex.

Environmental impact

Microbial degradation
Several species of the genera , , , , and are capable of consuming rubber latex. However, the rate of biodegradation is slow, and the growth of bacteria utilizing rubber as a sole carbon source is also slow.

See also



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