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Do Plants 'Breathe'?

Excerpted from BYJU'S: The Learning Shop

Yes, like animals plants also breathe.

All living organisms, including plants, receive their energy required for their survival from a chain of chemical reactions called respiration.

Most oxygen comes from tiny ocean plants called phytoplankton that live near the water’s surface. Like all plants, they photosynthesize by using sunlight and carbon dioxide to make food. A by-product of photosynthesis is oxygen.

Plants do require oxygen for respiration which in return give out carbon dioxide. Unlike animals, plants do not have any specialized structures for gaseous exchange but they have stomata (present in leaves) and lenticels (present in stems) which are involved in the exchange of gases. Compared to animals and humans, plant roots, stems, and leaves respire at a very lower rate.

Graphic of respiration in plants

In this process of cellular respiration, plants produce glucose molecules through photosynthesis process by capturing the solar energy and converting it into glucose. There are many live experiments to prove that plants do breath. All plants do respire to provide energy for their cells to stay active or alive.

The Process of Respiration

During respiration, very little amount of gas exchanges takes place within the different parts of the plants. Therefore, each part takes care of its own energy requirements.

Roots, stems, and leaves of plants exchange gases for respiration separately. As we all know, leaves have tiny pores called stomata, which is used for the exchange of gases. The oxygen, taken in through stomata is used by cells in the leaves to break down glucose into carbon dioxide and water.

The Role of Air Temperature

Plant respiration occurs 24 hours per day, but night respiration is more evident since the photosynthesis process ceases. During the night, it is very important that the temperature is cooler than during the day because plants can experience stress. As the night time temperature inceases, the respiration rate increases and consequently plant's temperature increases. This action could result in flower damage and poor plant growth.

Respiration in Roots

Roots, the underground part of the plants absorb air from the air spaces present between the soil particles. Thus, the oxygen absorbed through roots are used to release energy which is later utilized for the transportation of minerals and salts from the soil.

Graphic of respiration in roots

We are aware of the fact that plants have the unique ability to photosynthesize. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants prepare their own food. It takes place only in the parts of plants that contain chlorophyll, i.e. only in the green parts of the plants. The process of photosynthesis is so prominent that it sometimes masks the process of respiration in plants. However, we must know that respiration in plants occurs throughout the day while photosynthesis process takes place only in the presence of light. Therefore, at night the respiration in plants becomes prominent.

That is why we often hear that people are asked not to sleep under a tree at night. This may cause suffocation due to the excessive presence of carbon dioxide released by trees as a result of respiration.

Respiration in Stems

In the case of the stem, the air gets diffused in the stomata and passes through various parts of the cell for respiration. The carbon dioxide produced during this stage also diffuses through the stomata. In higher plants or woody plants, the gaseous exchange is carried out by lenticels.

Respiration in Leaves

Leaves comprise tiny pores referred to as stomata. The exchange of gases takes place via stomata through the process of diffusion. Each stoma is controlled by Guard Cells. The opening and closing of the stoma help in the exchange of gases between the atmosphere and the interior of leaves.

Graphic of respiration in leaves

Further Information

The Life Cycle of Plants: Fertilization
The Spruce: How to Make Your Own Fertilizer
Pollination and Fertilization
4 Ways To Use Eggshells For Your Plants
10 Ways to Use Banana Peels in Your Garden