Cork Cambium: Definition & Concept

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  • 0:00 What Is Cork Cambium?
  • 1:08 Cambium
  • 1:41 Secondary Growth &…
  • 2:48 Removal
  • 3:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Szymanski

Jen has taught biology and related fields to students from Kindergarten to University. She has a Master's Degree in Physiology.

Have you ever carved your initials into a tree's bark? Did you ever think about how you were affecting the tree? In this lesson, we'll look at the structure and function of the plant tissue called cork cambium, which is vital to producing the bark that covers a healthy tree.

What Is Cork Cambium?

Before we get into the specifics of the plant tissue called cork cambium, let's first briefly review how plants grow. Primary growth occurs when plants grow toward the sunlight necessary for photosynthesis and also sink roots deep into the soil to anchor them and enable them to absorb water and nutrients. This up and down growth is possible thanks to apical meristem, stem cell-like tissue that, upon division, creates an undifferentiated cell that will become either a new root or shoot tip.

Secondary growth happens when a plant's stem or branches grow outward (get thicker). This type of growth is possible because some plants, like trees and shrubs, have lateral meristem, another stem cell-like tissue. Instead of causing the plant to grow up or down, lateral meristematic tissue causes the plant to increase in girth by adding rings of growth.


Meristematic tissue responsible for lateral, or outward, growth is sometimes called cambium. There are two kinds of cambium in woody plant stems, both of which increase the stem's diameter. Some cambium is vascular cambium; that is, its division creates the plant's secondary vascular tissue, xylem and phloem cells. The bark of a woody plant also contains cork cambium, which creates cork cells of the outer layers of bark.

Secondary Growth & Cork Cambium

Primary growth in plants yields an outer layer known as the epidermis. In plants that don't have lateral growth, this layer is enough to help protect the plant's inner tissues. When a plant's stem gets thicker, however, this epidermis splits and falls off. The plant would be susceptible to disease and water loss if it weren't for cork cambium.

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