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Endodermis in Plants: Function & Definition

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  • 0:04 What is a Plant Endodermis?
  • 0:50 What Does the Endodermis do?
  • 2:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Terry Dunn

Terry has a master's degree in environmental communications and has taught in a variety of settings.

The plant endodermis plays an important role in selecting what gets into the plant from the soil. Here you will learn what it is, where it is, and how it functions in a plant.

What is a Plant Endodermis?

The cross section of a plant root is a little like the cross section of a piece of lasagna. If you've ever made lasagna, then you know that the first thing in the pan is a layer of large, flat noodles. In a plant root, that first layer would be a single layer of cells called the epidermis. Then comes a smear of ricotta cheese, some tomato sauce, and perhaps a sprinkle (or three) of mozzarella. In a plant root, that mixture of ingredients would be like the cortex, which is where the bulk of the root tissues are. Then comes another layer of large, flat noodles. That single layer of cells in the root is called the endodermis. The next batch of cheese and tomato sauce in the lasagna would be equivalent to the stele in the plant, which is the cylindrical core made up of vascular tissues.

What Does the Endodermis Do?

Of course, the purpose of all the layers and ingredients in a piece of lasagna is to make it look pretty enough to eat. In a plant root, it gets a bit more complicated than making it pretty. Roots have the not-so-easy task of letting water, gases, and nutrients from the soil into the plant without less desirable substances also getting in. The types and arrangement of the root structures are built to accomplish that task. The endodermis is one of the key structures that manages what gets into the plant and for that reason, it's concentrated in the roots and not so much in other parts of the plant.

The endodermis isn't a uniform layer of cells. In the mix are bands of a waxy, waterproof substance, called suberin that run perpendicular to the root surface, all the way around the circle of the root endodermis. The bands are called Casparian strips and they're the gatekeepers for what gets into the vascular tissues of the plant and, therefore, into the plant.

So the way water and gases pass into the root and up the plant is a brilliant example of biological design. The epidermis of the root doesn't have the waxy, waterproof coating of much of the rest of the plant epidermis. This lets water and gases into the outer layer of the root.

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