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Cell Wall

Image of cell walls as seen from a microscope

The cell wall is the main protection barrier that surrounds a plant cell.  It is built mostly of cellulose fibers which provide the structure and support of the cell wall.  Cell walls are thick and are able to bond together to provide plants structure.

Why do plants have cell walls and not animals?

Think about how a plant grows. Plants grow tall, towards the Sun’s light. In order to provide plants with the strength necessary to support their weight, the cells within the plant have this hard cell covering. If a tree were soft and mushy like an animal, do you think they could stand strong and tall?

What would happen if the cells in your body had cell walls? If an animal’s body were made of plant cells, the animal would be very stiff and unable to move easily. Instead of cell walls, animals use other creative solutions to give them strength. For example, many animal’s bodies are built on a structure of bones. These bones allow the animal to have the strength to stand up, but the flexibility to move quickly.

Cell Wall Structure

Image of cell walls bonded together as seen in a microscope

Cell walls bonded together as seen in a microscope

Although cell walls are rigid and structural, they actually have holes all over them.  Cell walls are like a chain link fence.  They are rigid and provide structure but there are holes all over it.  In a cell wall, these holes are called plasmodesmata.   Plasmodesmata allow for nutrients to enter and leave the cell.  These holes also provide pathways for cells to connect to each other to share resources with one another.

Cell Wall Function

Cell walls provide the structure and protection of the plant cell due to the cellulose fibers inside the walls.  All of the cell organelles are contained within these walls. And while these walls provide a strong structure, they are also permeable (allow nutrients and molecules to pass freely).  However, the cell can’t just let anything enter or leave the cell.  If this were to happen the cell would most likely die due to losing too many resources are allowing something bad enter.  Luckily, the cell membrane is right next to the cell wall which is the decision maker on what is allowed in and out of the cell.