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Cross-section of a flax plant stem:
1. pith
2. protoxylem
3. xylem
4. phloem
5. sclerenchyma (bast fibre)
6. cortex
7. epidermis

The epidermis (from the Greek ἐπιδερμίς, meaning "over-skin") is a single layer of cells that covers the leaves, flowers, roots and stems of plants. It forms a boundary between the plant and the external environment. The epidermis serves several functions: it protects against water loss, regulate gas exchange, secretes metabolic compounds, and (especially in roots) absorbs water and mineral nutrients. The epidermis of most leaves shows dorsoventral anatomy: the upper (adaxial) and lower (abaxial) surfaces have somewhat different construction and may serve different functions. Woody stems and some other stem structures such as potato tubers produce a secondary covering called the periderm that replaces the epidermis as the protective covering.

Description

The epidermis is the outermost cell layer of the primary plant body. In some older works the cells of the leaf epidermis have been regarded as specialized parenchyma cells,[1] but the established modern preference has long been to classify the epidermis as dermal tissue, whereas parenchyma is classified as ground tissue.[2] The epidermis is the main component of the dermal tissue system of leaves (diagrammed below), and also stems, roots, flowers, fruits, and seeds; it is usually transparent (epidermal cells have fewer chloroplasts or lack them completely, except for the guard cells.)

The cells of the epidermis are structurally and functionally variable. Most plants have an epidermis that is a single cell layer thick. Some plants like Ficus elastica and Peperomia, which have a periclinal cellular division within the protoderm of the leaves, have an epidermis with multiple cell layers. Epidermal cells are tightly linked to each other and provide mechanical strength and protection to the plant. The walls of the epidermal cells of the above-ground parts of plants contain cutin, and are covered with a cuticle. The cuticle reduces water loss to the atmosphere, it is sometimes covered with wax in smooth sheets, granules, plates, tubes, or filaments. The wax layers give some plants a whitish or bluish surface color. Surface wax acts as a moisture barrier and protects the plant from intense sunlight and wind.The epidermis (from the Greek ἐπιδερμίς, meaning "over-skin") is a single layer of cells that covers the leaves, flowers, roots and stems of plants. It forms a boundary between the plant and the external environment. The epidermis serves several functions: it protects against water loss, regulate gas exchange, secretes metabolic compounds, and (especially in roots) absorbs water and mineral nutrients. The epidermis of most leaves shows dorsoventral anatomy: the upper (adaxial) and lower (abaxial) surfaces have somewhat different construction and may serve different functions. Woody stems and some other stem structures such as potato tubers produce a secondary covering called the periderm that replaces the epidermis as the protective covering.

Description

secondary growth, the epidermis of roots and stems is usually replaced by a periderm through the action of a cork cambium.

The leaf and stem epidermis is covered with pores called stomata (sing., stoma), part of a stoma complex consisting of a pore surrounded on each side by chloroplast-containing guard cells, and two to four subsidiary cells that lack chloroplasts. The stomata complex regulates the exchange of gases and water vapor between the outside air and the interior of the leaf. Typically, the stomata are more numerous over the abaxial (lower) epidermis of the leaf than the (adaxial) upper epidermis. An exception is floating leaves where most or all stomata are on the upper surface. Vertical leaves, such as those of many grasses, often have roughly equal numbers of stomata on both surfaces. The stoma is bounded by two guard cells. The guard cells differ from the epidermal cells in the following aspects:

  • The guard cells are bean-shaped in surface view, while the epidermal cells are irregular in shape
  • The guard cells contain chloroplasts, so they can manufacture food by photosynthesis (The epidermal cells do not contain chloroplasts)
  • Guard cells are the only epidermal cells that can make sugar. According to one theory, in sunlight, the concentration of potassium ions (K+) increases in the guard cells. This, together with the sugars formed, lowers the water potential in the guard cells. As a result, water from other cells enters the guard cells by osmosis so they swell and become turgid. Because the guard cells have a thicker cellulose wall on one side of the cell, i.e. the side around the stomatal pore, the swollen guard cells become curved and pull the stomata open.

At night, the sugar is used up and water leaves the guard cells, so they become flaccid and the stomatal pore closes. In this way, they reduce the amount of water vapor escaping from the leaf.

Cell differentiation in the epidermis