Plants contain a variety of cells that perform specific functions.
In this lesson, you will learn about a type of cells known as sclerenchyma to gain an understanding of their function and location.
Definition of Sclerenchyma Cells
Plants are very different from the animals, humans, and other organisms we encounter on a daily basis. As humans, we depend on our skeletons for support and flexibility as well as our complex organs to perform life functions. Plants, on the other hand, depend on their cells to be extremely specialized to perform their life functions.
For example, since plants do not have bones for structure and support they must have cell walls around all of their cells. This leads to the need for very unique cells in plants. Sclerenchyma cells are specialized plant cells that exist to provide strength and support. They are present in all kinds of plants including grasses, trees, and flowering plants.
Plants require cells that are bound together and have a strong outer layer known as a cell wall. Sclerenchyma cells are strong, thick cells that provide most of the support in a plant.
They are known to have extremely thick cell walls and do not participate in many of the other activities of the developing plant, such as photosynthesis, because their focus is strictly on support and structure.As a matter of fact, when sclerenchyma cells are fully mature, they die. Once they’re dead, they simply maintain the structure of the plant and do not require further maintenance, freeing the plant to concentrate on other areas while having the support and strength it needs.
Types and Location
Sclerenchyma cells have many different sizes and shapes, but the main two types are fibres and sclereids. Fibres are cells that are long and thin like green beans and often bundle together.
They have tapered ends which interlock with other fibres, which provide the maximum amount of stability for the plant. They are quite prevalent in the whole body and can be found in the roots, stems, and vascular tissue of the leaves. Sclereids are cells that have all kinds of funky shapes, including branching or star-shaped patterns. They can bundle together or appear singly in much of the tissue of the plant and are what makes up the shells of nuts or the outer layers of seeds.
If you imagine a tall, strong tree, it’s easy to visualize structures that would need sclerenchyma cells. Think of the thick trunk of the tree as well as the primary body of the tree that holds the main limbs. These areas must be extremely strong and support much of the tree. For this reason, these areas are primarily composed of sclerenchyma cells.Sclerenchyma cells are not only in trees, though. All plants need strength and support.
These cells can be found in columns lining a blade of grass to help it stand tall. They are also found in the stems and branches of plants such as roses where support is needed.
When you hear the word sclerenchyma you should think of three ‘S’s: support, structure, and strength. These cells are found in parts of plants that need these characteristics. These cells are known for their extremely thick cell walls. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the two main ones are fibres and sclereids.
When the cells have reached maturity, they die and remain in place to provide support.