Q:

What gives plant cells their shape?

A:

Quick Answer

The cell wall is what gives plant cells their shape. The cell wall, not to be confused with the cell membrane, is a rigid structure made up of long cellulose fibers, branching hemicellulose fibers, and pectin. The fluid pressure inside the cell also contributes somewhat to their shape.

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Full Answer

Cell walls are tough and rigid to support the upward growth of stems using their own structural strength. Their rigidity forces the plant cell to conform to a certain shape. Despite this rigidity, the fibrous consistency of the wall lends itself to a certain amount of flexibility, which is dependent upon the fluid pressure inside the cell. When a plant cell is healthy and full of water, the fluid presses against the cell wall and keeps it stiff, like a fully blown balloon. When a plant cell does not have enough water, the cell wall sinks in on itself, and the plant wilts.

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