Diffusion is a process that occurs at the cellular level. It is a method of transferring vital molecules to and from a plant's environment, maintaining the health of both.
Diffusion occurs when a high concentration of liquid or gas moves to an area of low concentration in order to create equilibrium.
Plant Cell Structure
Specialized membranes form a protective barrier around plant cells. These membranes are selectively permeable, meaning that they allow some molecules to pass through and keep others out.
Water, carbon dioxide and oxygen molecules easily pass through plant cell membranes. Plants require these elements for food production, respiration, hydration and growth.
When concentrations of vital molecules are lower inside a plant cell than outside, more molecules diffuse inward from the cell's surroundings. If the cell's surroundings lack enough molecules to maintain equilibrium, the cell will deteriorate and eventually die.
Plant cells diffuse oxygen and small amounts of water outward into the atmosphere, which supports animal life.
Vascular and Non-Vascular Plants
Vascular plants draw in most of their water by diffusing it through hair-like cells on their roots. Non-vascular plants are usually aquatic or semi-aquatic, and diffuse most of their water directly through the cells of their leaf-like structures.
- Bilogy Corner: Diffusion
- Maricopa Community College: Transport In and Out of Cells
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Jessica Martinez is a freelance writer from Clayton, North Carolina. As a homeschooling mom, she enjoys writing about education, child development and family issues. Martinez also enjoys researching and writing about subjects she loves: history, art, interior design, gardening and travel.