Parenchyma in Plants: Definition & Function

Parenchyma in Plants: Definition & Function
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  • 0:01 Definition of Parenchyma
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Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

Plants contain numerous types of cells and tissues. In this lesson, you will learn about the function of a type of cell known as parenchyma that is commonly found in plants.

Definition of Parenchyma

Plants have numerous types of specialized cells that are specifically designed to carry out life functions. The word 'parenchyma' just means the bulk of a thing, but in plants specifically, parenchyma cells are thin-walled cells that make up the inside of many non-woody plant structures including stems, roots, and leaves.

Parenchyma forms the cortex (or main filling) of stems, the inner layer of cells within a leaf, the endosperm material that feeds a growing seed, and the pulp of a fruit.

Function of Parenchyma in Plants

Parenchyma cells can serve many functions. Their role is largely based on their location in the plant; that can determine whether they will serve in storage, photosynthesis, or damage repair.

Parenchyma cells have large central vacuoles, which are large, membrane-enclosed organelles found in many plant cells. These vacuoles are able to be used by plant cells to store materials and to maintain optimal pressure within the cell of the plant.

Do you like to eat potatoes? If so, you are taking advantage of the plant-storing starch in the form of potatoes. A potato grows as the parenchyma cells divide and their central vacuoles fill with starch. The potatoes store the starch as a source of energy for difficult times. When we dig up the potatoes, we are actually robbing the plant of its food supply and taking advantage of the storage capabilities of parenchyma cells.

Plants must be able to do photosynthesis in order to create energy and survive. Most photosynthesis occurs in the leaves of a plant, which contain numerous parenchyma cells with chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are the cellular organelles responsible for photosynthesis. Providing a place for the process of photosynthesis to occur makes the leaf parenchyma cells crucial to the plant.

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