World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000061899
Reproduction Date:

Title: Phloem  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Glossary of botanical terms, Botany, Xylem, Non-vascular plant, Ground tissue
Collection: Plant Anatomy, Plant Physiology, Tissues (Biology)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Cross-section of a flax plant stem:
1. Pith,
2. Protoxylem,
3. Xylem I,
4. Phloem I,
5. Sclerenchyma (bast fibre),
6. Cortex,
7. Epidermis

In photosynthesis. This is called translocation.


  • Structure 1
    • Conducting cells (Sieve elements) 1.1
    • Parenchyma cells 1.2
      • Companion cells 1.2.1
      • Albuminous cells 1.2.2
      • Other parenchyma cells 1.2.3
    • Supportive cells 1.3
      • Fibres 1.3.1
      • Sclereids 1.3.2
  • Function 2
    • Girdling 2.1
    • Origin 2.2
  • Nutritional use 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


Cross section of some phloem cells
Cross section of some phloem cells

Phloem tissue consists of: conducting cells, generally called sieve elements; parenchyma cells, including both specialized companion cells or albuminous cells and unspecialized cells; and supportive cells, such as fibres and sclereids.

Conducting cells (Sieve elements)

simplified phloem and companion cells:
1. Xylem
2. Phloem
3. Cambium
4. Pith
5. Companion Cells

Sieve elements are the type of cell that are responsible for transporting sugars throughout the plant.[2] At maturity they lack a endoplasmic reticulum, which can be found at the plasma membrane, often nearby the plasmodesmata that connect them to their companion or albuminous cells. All sieve cells have groups of pores at their ends that grow from modified and enlarged plasmodesmata, called sieve areas. The pores are reinforced by platelets of a polysaccharide called callose.[2]

Parenchyma cells

Companion cells

The metabolic functioning of sieve-tube members depends on a close association with the companion cells, a specialized form of parenchyma cell. All of the cellular functions of a sieve-tube element are carried out by the (much smaller) companion cell, a typical nucleate plant cell except the companion cell usually has a larger number of ribosomes and mitochondria. The cytoplasm of a companion cell is connected to the sieve-tube element by plasmodesmata.[2]

There are three types of companion cell.

  1. Ordinary companions cells, which have smooth walls and few or no plasmodesmata connections to cells other than the sieve tube.
  2. Transfer cells, which have much-folded walls that are adjacent to non-sieve cells, allowing for larger areas of transfer. They are specialized in scavenging solutes from those in the cell walls that are actively pumped requiring energy.
  3. Intermediary cells, which have smooth walls and numerous plasmodesmata connecting them to other cells.

The first two types of cell collect solutes through apoplastic (cell wall) transfers, whilst the third type can collect solutes via the symplast through the plasmodesmata connections.

Albuminous cells

Albuminous cells have a similar role to companion cells, but are associated with sieve cells only and are therefore found only in seedless vascular plants and gymnosperms.[2]

Other parenchyma cells

Other parenchyma cells within the phloem are generally undifferentiated and used for food storage.[2]

Supportive cells

Although its primary function is transport of sugars, phloem may also contain cells that have a mechanical support function. These generally fall into two categories: fibres and sclereids. Both cell types have a secondary cell wall and are therefore dead at maturity. The secondary cell wall increases their rigidity and tensile strength.


Fibres are the long, narrow supportive cells that provide tension strength without limiting flexibility. They are also found in xylem, and are the main component of many textiles such as paper, linen, and cotton.[2][2]


Sclereids are irregularly shaped cells that add compression strength[2] but may reduce flexibility to some extent. They also serve as anti-herbivory structures, as their irregular shape and hardness will increase wear on teeth as the herbivores chew. For example, they are responsible for the gritty texture in pears.


Unlike xylem (which is composed primarily of dead cells), the phloem is composed of still-living cells that transport sap. The sap is a water-based solution, but rich in sugars made by the photosynthetic areas. These sugars are transported to non-photosynthetic parts of the plant, such as the roots, or into storage structures, such as tubers or bulbs.

The Pressure flow hypothesis was a hypothesis proposed by Ernst Münch in 1930 that explained the mechanism of phloem translocation.[3]

During the plant's growth period, usually during the spring, storage organs such as the roots are sugar sources, and the plant's many growing areas are sugar sinks. The movement in phloem is multidirectional, whereas, in xylem cells, it is unidirectional (upward).

After the growth period, when the fruit) are always sinks. Because of this multi-directional flow, coupled with the fact that sap cannot move with ease between adjacent sieve-tubes, it is not unusual for sap in adjacent sieve-tubes to be flowing in opposite directions.

While movement of water and minerals through the xylem is driven by negative pressures (tension) most of the time, movement through the phloem is driven by positive hydrostatic pressures. This process is termed translocation, and is accomplished by a process called phloem loading and unloading. Cells in a sugar source "load" a sieve-tube element by actively transporting solute molecules into it. This causes water to move into the sieve-tube element by osmosis, creating pressure that pushes the sap down the tube. In sugar sinks, cells actively transport solutes out of the sieve-tube elements, producing the exactly opposite effect.

Some plants, however, appear not to load phloem by active transport. In these cases a mechanism known as the polymer trap mechanism was proposed by Robert Turgeon.[4] In this case small sugars such as sucrose move into intermediary cells through narrow plasmodesmata, where they are polymerised to raffinose and other larger oligosaccharides. Now they are unable to move back, but can proceed through wider plasmodesmata into the sieve tube element.

The pressure flow hypothesis proposes a mechanism for phloem sap transport.[5] although other hypotheses have been proposed.[6] Phloem sap is also thought to play a role in sending informational signals throughout vascular plants. "Loading and unloading patterns are largely determined by the conductivity and number of plasmodesmata and the position-dependent function of solute-specific, plasma membrane transport proteins. Recent evidence indicates that mobile proteins and RNA are part of the plant's long-distance communication signaling system. Evidence also exists for the directed transport and sorting of macromolecules as they pass through plasmodesmata."[6]

The symplastic phloem loading (polymer trap mechanism above) is confined mostly to plants in tropical rain forests and is seen as more primitive. The actively transported apoplastic phloem loading is viewed as more advanced, as it is found in the later-evolved plants, and particularly in those in temperate and arid conditions. This mechanism may, therefore, have allowed plants to colonise the cooler locations.

Organic molecules such as sugars, amino acids, certain hormones, and even messenger RNAs are transported in the phloem through sieve tube elements.[6]


Because phloem tubes sit on the outside of the xylem in most plants, a tree or other plant can be effectively killed by stripping away the bark in a ring on the trunk or stem. With the phloem destroyed, nutrients cannot reach the roots, and the tree/plant will die. Trees located in areas with animals such as beavers are vulnerable since beavers chew off the bark at a fairly precise height. This process is known as girdling, and can be used for agricultural purposes. For example, enormous fruits and vegetables seen at fairs and carnivals are produced via girdling. A farmer would place a girdle at the base of a large branch, and remove all but one fruit/vegetable from that branch. Thus, all the sugars manufactured by leaves on that branch have no sinks to go to but the one fruit/vegetable, which thus expands to many times normal size.


When the plant is an embryo, vascular tissue emerges from procambium tissue, which is at the center of the embryo. Protophloem itself appears in the mid-vein extending into the cotyledonary node, which constitutes the first appearance of a leaf in angiosperms, where it forms continuous strands. The hormone auxin, transported by the protein PIN1 is responsible for the growth of those protophloem strands, signaling the final identity of those tissues. SHORTROOT(SHR), and microRNA165/166 also participate in that process, while Callose Synthase 3(CALS3), inhibits the locations where SHORTROOT(SHR), and microRNA165 can go.

In the embryo, root phloem develops independently in the upper hypocotyl, which lies between the embryonic root, and the cotyledon.[7]

In an adult, the phloem originates, and grows outwards from, meristematic cells in the vascular cambium. Phloem is produced in phases. Primary phloem is laid down by the apical meristem and develops from the procambium. Secondary phloem is laid down by the vascular cambium to the inside of the established layer(s) of phloem.

In some eudicot families (Apocynaceae, Convolvulaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Solanaceae, Myrtaceae, Asteraceae), phloem also develops on the inner side of the vascular cambium; in this case, a distinction between external phloem and internal phloem or intraxylary phloem is made. Internal phloem is mostly primary, and begins differentiation later than the external phloem and protoxylem, though it is not without exceptions. In some other families (Amaranthaceae, Nyctaginaceae, Salvadoraceae), the cambium also periodically forms inward strands or layers of phloem, embedded in the xylem: Such phloem strands are called included phloem or interxylary phloem.[8]

Nutritional use

Stripping the inner bark from a pine branch.

Phloem of pine trees has been used in Finland as a substitute food in times of famine and even in good years in the northeast. Supplies of phloem from previous years helped stave off starvation in the great famine of the 1860s. Phloem is dried and milled to flour (pettu in Finnish) and mixed with rye to form a hard dark bread. The least appreciated was silkko, a bread made only from buttermilk and pettu without any real rye or cereal flour. Recently, pettu has again become available as a curiosity, and some have made claims of health benefits. However, its food energy content is low relative to rye or other cereals.

Phloem from silver birch has been also used to make flour in the past.

See also


  1. ^ Lalonde S. Wipf D., Frommer W.B. (2004). "Transport mechanisms for organic forms of carbon and nitrogen between source and sink". Annu Rev Plant Biol. 55: 341–72.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Raven, Peter H.; Ever, R.F.; Eichhorn, S.E. (1992). Biology of Plants. New York, NY, U.S.A.: Worth Publishers. p. 791. 
  3. ^ Münch, E (1930). Die Stoffbewegunen in der Pflanze. Verlag von Gustav Fischer, Jena. p. 234. 
  4. ^ Turgeon, R (1991). VL Bonnemain, S Delrot, J Dainty, WJ Lucas, (eds), ed. "Recent Advances Phloem Transport and Assimilate Compartmentation".  
  5. ^ Khan, Aslam (1 January 2001). Plant Anatomy And Physiology. Gyan Publishing House.  
  6. ^ a b c Turgeon, Robert; Wolf, Shmuel (2009). "Phloem Transport: Cellular Pathways and Molecular Trafficking". Annual Review of Plant Biology 60: 207–21.  
  7. ^ Lucas, William, et al. The Plant Vascular System: Evolution, Development and Functions. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology. 55, 294-388 (2013) PMID: 23462277
  8. ^ Evert, Ray F. Esau's Plant Anatomy. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2006, pp. 357–358, ISBN 0470047372.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.