What is Dermal Tissue? - Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 What Is Dermal Tissue?
  • 1:28 Function
  • 3:43 Extensions of the Dermal Layer
  • 4:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

Dermal tissue is a thin layer of cells covering the soft parts of a plant. Learn more about the dermal tissue of a plant, and take a short quiz at the end of this lesson.

What Is Dermal Tissue?

When you think of the parts of a plant, the leaves, stem, and flowers probably come to mind. Trees may bring to mind a trunk, branches, and leaves or needles. However, would you think of skin as a part of a plant? Probably not.

Skin is clearly an important and well-known part of a person or animal. But surprisingly, plants have an outer layer known as dermal tissue that is essentially their skin. This layer is also known as the epidermis, which you may notice has the same name as our very own outer layer.

Dermal tissue is found covering the younger primary parts of a plant. These include leaves, roots, stems, flowers, fruits, and seeds. Plant parts that become woody no longer have dermal tissue as their outer layer because it is replaced by periderm, or cork. Just as our own skin serves to protect our bodies, the dermal layer of a plant has the same function. We will discuss this a little later.

If we were to take a close look at our own epidermis, we would find a very thin layer of skin that is tough yet flexible. Zooming in on dermal tissue of a plant, we find a similar structure. In fact, this epidermis is so thin that it is only one cell-layer thick. It is mainly composed of flattened epidermal cells, and some cells are specialized for specific functions.


Like our own skin, the dermal layer of a plant is its first line of defense. It protects against damage to the plant itself. In addition, the epidermal cells of a plant are closely packed together to create an effective barrier against potentially harmful intruders, like fungi.

On leaves, we find a waxy coating secreted by epidermal cells. This coating is called the cuticle. The cuticle helps water from constantly evaporating from the leaves. You can see evidence of this cuticle on many plants after a rainstorm. Water forms as balls on leaves, demonstrating its inability to soak into the leaf because of the waxy cuticle.

Also, within the dermal layer are specialized cells that are responsible for allowing gas exchange to occur. These allow some water to evaporate. In order to understand how these cells work, we will take a closer look at a leaf. Invisible to the naked eye, there are microscopic openings on a leaf known as pores. Just like pores in our own skin that allow sweat and oils out, those in the dermal layer are the openings that allow gases and water to pass through. Each pore is flanked by two bean-shaped cells called guard cells. Together, the pore and guard cells make up what is known as a stomata.

Since they are the only openings in the epidermis, stomata regulate what is able to pass through the dermal layer. Gas exchange occurs through these tiny openings, which makes it possible for the plant to make food and release waste.

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