Water and Sugar Transportation

How do water and sugars move through a plant?

Non-vascular plants have very limited mechanisms for moving water and sugar throughout their bodies. Water is simply soaked through all exposed tissues and the little transportation that occurs must do so either through cellular interactions or externally.

Vascular plants have separate mechanisms for transporting water and sugars.

Water moves through vascular plants through specialized tissues called xylem. The xylem is made up of thin tubes called tracheids and wider ones called vessel elements. Water moves upward from the roots of the plant to cells undergoing photosynthesis through these tube-like structures. Water is able to flow against the force of gravity through a combination of capillary action and bulk flow. Water’s polarity and the gradients of pressure potential throughout the plant cause these phenomena to occur.

Sugars are transported throughout vascular plants through other tissues. These tubes are called phloem, and consist of sieve tube elements and sieve cells. Together, they distribute cell sap to areas in the plant that are in need of glucose. This translocation is simply regulated by concentration gradients from areas of sugar production to sinks, or areas of low sugar concentrations.

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