- Describe plant cell structures, and list types of plant cells.
- Compare and contrast different types of plant tissues.
- Explain how plants grow.
- dermal tissue
- ground tissue
Like animals, plants have organs that are specialized to carry out complex functions. An organ is a structure composed of more than one type of tissue. A tissue, in turn, is a group of cells of the same kind that do the same job. In this lesson, you will read about the tissues that do the important work of plants. The cells that make up plant tissues are described first.
Plant cells resemble other eukaryotic cells in many ways. For example, they are enclosed by a plasma membrane and have a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles. A typical plant cell is represented by the diagram in Figure below.
Plant cells have all the same structures as animal cells, plus some additional structures. Can you identify the unique plant structures in the diagram?
Plant Cell Structures
Structures found in plant cells but not animal cells include a large central vacuole, cell wall, and plastids such as chloroplasts.
- The large central vacuole is surrounded by its own membrane and contains water and dissolved substances. Its primary role is to maintain pressure against the inside of the cell wall, giving the cell shape and helping to support the plant.
- The cell wall is located outside the cell membrane. It consists mainly of cellulose and may also contain lignin, which makes it more rigid. The cell wall shapes, supports, and protects the cell. It prevents the cell from absorbing too much water and bursting. It also keeps large, damaging molecules out of the cell.
- Plastids are membrane-bound organelles with their own DNA. Examples are chloroplasts and chromoplasts. Chloroplasts contain the green pigment chlorophyll and carry out photosynthesis. Chromoplasts make and store other pigments. They give flower petals their bright colors.
Types of Plant Cells
There are three basic types of cells in most plants. The three types are described in Table below. The different types of plant cells have different structures and functions.
Type of Cell
food storage tissues of potatoes
irregularly thickened walls
strings running through a stalk of celery
very thick cell walls containing lignin
tough fibers in jute (used to make rope)
All three types of plant cells are found in most plant tissues. Three major types of plant tissues are dermal, ground, and vascular tissues.
Dermal tissue covers the outside of a plant in a single layer of cells called the epidermis. You can think of the epidermis as the plant’s skin. It mediates most of the interactions between a plant and its environment. Epidermal cells secrete a waxy substance called cuticle, which coats, waterproofs, and protects the above-ground parts of plants. Cuticle helps prevent water loss, abrasions, infections, and damage from toxins.
Ground tissue makes up much of the interior of a plant and carries out basic metabolic functions. Ground tissue in stems provides support and may store food or water. Ground tissues in roots may also store food.
Vascular tissue runs through the ground tissue inside a plant. It consists of xylem and phloem, which transport fluids. Xylem and phloem are packaged together in bundles, as shown in Figure below.
Bundles of xylem and phloem run through the ground tissue inside this stalk of celery. What function do these tissues serve?
Growth of Plants
Most plants continue to grow throughout their lives. Like other multicellular organisms, plants grow through a combination of cell growth and cell division. Cell growth increases cell size, while cell division (mitosis) increases the number of cells. As plant cells grow, they also become specialized into different cell types through cellular differentiation. Once cells differentiate, they can no longer divide. How do plants grow or replace damaged cells after that?
The key to continued growth and repair of plant cells is meristem. Meristem is a type of plant tissue consisting of undifferentiated cells that can continue to divide and differentiate. Meristem at the tips of roots and stems allows them to grow in length. This is called primary growth. Meristem within and around vascular tissues allows growth in width. This is called secondary growth.
- Plants have eukaryotic cells with large central vacuoles, cell walls containing cellulose, and plastids such as chloroplasts and chromoplasts. Different types of plant cells include parenchymal, collenchymal, and sclerenchymal cells. The three types differ in structure and function.
- The three types of plant cells are found in each of the major types of plant tissues: dermal, ground, and vascular tissues. Dermal tissue covers the outside of a plant in a single layer of cells called the epidermis. It mediates most of the interactions between a plant and its environment. Ground tissue makes up most of the interior of a plant. It carries out basic metabolic functions and stores food and water. Vascular tissue runs through the ground tissue inside a plant. It consists of bundles of xylem and phloem, which transport fluids throughout the plant.
- Most plants continue to grow as long as they live. They grow through a combination of cell growth and cell division (mitosis). The key to plant growth is meristem, a type of plant tissue consisting of undifferentiated cells that can continue to divide and differentiate. Meristem allows plant stems and roots to grow longer (primary growth) and wider (secondary growth).
Lesson Review Questions
1. Identify three structures found in plant cells but not animal cells. What is the function of each structure?
2. Describe parenchymal plant cells and state their functions.
3. What is cuticle? What is its role?
4. Define meristem.
5. An important concept in biology is that form follows function. In other words, the structure of an organism, or part of an organism, depends on its function. Apply this concept to plants, and explain why plants have different types of cells and tissues.
6. Compare and contrast dermal, ground, and vascular tissues of plants.
7. Explain why plants need special tissues for growth.
Points to Consider
Plants are complex organisms with tissues organized into organs.
- What organs do you think plants might have?
- Think about human organs, such as the heart, stomach, lungs, and kidneys. What are their functions? Do you think plants might have organs with similar functions as these human organs?