17 January 2014

Friday Five: Plant Cells

Plant cells are amazing in function and under the microscope are beautiful to look at. There are a potentially infinite amount of interesting things to know about plant cells, but here are five features that stand out to me...

A primary cell wall is only a few micrometres thick, but weight for weight the cellulose fibres within the cell walls have as much tensile strength as steel.

Some cells die upon maturation, but continue to be functional. An example being xylem cells, which upon maturity die, but water and soluble mineral nutrients continue to be transported throughout the plant from the roots within them.

Lignin is considered to be a crucial adaptation for terrestrial plants. Lignin is a very inflexible material and gives wood its strength. Without it plants would not be able to conduct water to any great height without the cells collapsing.

Chloroplasts are the sites of photosynthesis within a cell. They are exclusive to plants and protista and put simply allow them to convert light energy into simple sugars - allowing plants to effectively make their own food.

Even in darkness plants can still make energy! Like us, plants have mitochondria. During the hours of darkness these mitochondria use stored sugars and starches to create energy via respiration. They are much smaller than chloroplasts and much more plentiful.

Here's an excellent overview of plant cells. Hope you enjoy it!

Hodge, G. (2013) RHS Botany for Gardeners, London, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd


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