Login

C4 Plants: Definition, Types & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Cambium: Definition & Function

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 What Is a C4 Plant?
  • 1:25 C4 Photosynthesis Process
  • 2:56 Examples of C4 Plants
  • 3:36 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brekke Peterson Munks
After exploring this lesson, you'll be able to define and identify C4 plants. Learn about what a C4 plant is and what makes C4 plants unique. Then you can test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is a C4 Plant?

A C4 plant sounds like something that should be associated with Hollywood action movies! However, it is just a type of plant that uses a specific photosynthesis mechanism (C4 photosynthesis) in order to avoid photorespiration. Photorespiration is a wasteful reaction that occurs when plants take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide instead of taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

All plants make energy during the Calvin cycle (the process where plants take up CO2 and turn it into sugar energy); however, in hot, sunny, dry climates, C4 plants are much more efficient than C3 plants (plants that perform C3 photosynthesis - the most common type).

The difference between C3 and C4 plants is that C4 plants make a four-carbon sugar during the Calvin cycle instead of two three-carbon sugars as in C3 plants. This larger sugar in C4 plants brings more CO2 to the RuBisCO enzyme, reducing oxygen levels and making the process energy-intensive. More CO2 is brought into the process because of how cells are located.

C4 plants like very sunny areas with warm temperatures. They can withstand cool evening temperatures.

C4 Photosynthesis Process

To understand what a C4 plant cell is like, we must start from where the CO2 enters the plant.

1. Carbon dioxide comes into the plant via stomata. These are cells that open and close on a leaf for water and gas exchange.

2. The CO2 then enters the mesophyll cells. These are cells that are located toward the surface of a plant leaf and are where photosynthesis typically occurs. However, in C4 plants, these cells are exposed to oxygen and have no RuBisCO to do photosynthesis.

3. The CO2 joins with another carbon compound to make a C4 chemical called oxaloacetic acid.

4. This compound then is changed into a four-carbon acid and moves into a set of cells called the bundle sheath cells. These cells are located deep in the leaf tissue, and oxygen does not hinder them.

5. The C4 compound is then broken into CO2 and a 3-carbon compound. The CO2 is transferred to the chloroplast cells, where the Calvin cycle occurs. The 3-carbon compound is transferred back to the mesophyll cells for reprocessing. This is energy-intensive and can make C4 plants have a disadvantage in wet, cold environments.

C4 plants are suited for hot, dry climates because photorespiration is decreased; because CO2 levels are kept high and oxygen very low in chloroplast cells to ensure energy production.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support