Ground Tissue in Plants: Function, System & Definition

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Sarah Friedl

Sarah has a Master's degree in Zoology and a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

How do plants support and feed themselves? Ground tissue is important in plants because it is responsible for creating food from sunlight, as well helping plants grow longer and stand upright.

We also recommend watching Structure of Plant Stems: Vascular and Ground Tissue and Primary Root Tissue, Root Hairs and the Plant Vascular Cylinder

Tissue Systems and Ground Tissue Defined

Within a plant, there are three tissue systems, each serving important functions for the plant. If we start from the outside of the plant, the first tissue system you would encounter is called the dermal tissue system. This tissue is much like your skin, forming the first line of defense against physical damage and infection from the outside world.

In the very center of the plant, we find the vascular tissue system. This tissue provides support, but it also creates a highway of long-distance transport between the roots and other parts of the plants. Both water and nutrients are transported through the vascular tissue.

The third system is the ground tissue system. This tissue accounts for most of the bulk of the plant and fills the spaces in between the dermal and vascular tissues. The ground tissue has a variety of functions depending on what type of ground tissue it is.

Function

There are three types of ground tissue, and each one has a specific function or set of functions for the plant.

Parenchyma is a very versatile type of ground tissue, and it is responsible for photosynthesis (how a plant makes food from sunlight) and food storage. Parenchyma cells are also responsible for healing in the plant - this tissue can go through cell division and regenerate when needed. You are likely familiar with parenchyma cells, because this is what the pulp in fruit is comprised of.

Collenchyma is ground tissue that provides structural support to growing parts of the plant. Like parenchyma cells, collenchyma cells also go through cell division and therefore elongate parts of the plant such as stems and leaves. Collenchyma cells are long and thin and have very thick cells walls. This structure makes them very well suited to support the parts of the plants that are growing and have not become established yet. The thick, rigid structure of celery is due to collenchyma tissue.

Cross section of collenchyma cells
collenchyma cross section

Sclerenchyma is the ground tissue that provides structural support to the parts of the plant that are no longer growing. There are two types of sclerenchyma cells: fibers and sclereids. Fibers are long and thin and are responsible for many materials you use on a daily basis, such as clothing fabrics and rope. Sclereids are compact and dense, and they are what makes up that tough texture in apple cores.

Summary

The ground tissue system is important because it serves a variety of essential functions for plants. Each type of ground tissue has its role, such as food creation and storage or support during and after growth. Filling all the spaces that are not used by the dermal and vascular tissue systems, ground tissue can be found throughout the plant.

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