Scientists Say: Stomata

These are tiny holes that plants use to let gas in and out


This is a microscope image of a single stoma on a tomato leaf. The stoma is open to allow gas in and out.

Photohound/Wikimedia Commons

Stomata (noun, “STO-mah-tah”, singular “stoma”)

These are the small pores in plant stems or leaves that allow carbon dioxide in and oxygen and water vapor out. Each tiny hole is surrounded by a pair of cells called guard cells. These cells control whether a stoma is open or closed. Plants that live in dry places may keep their stomata closed during the day to prevent water loss. Plants in wetter places aren’t so predictable. They can close or open their stomata in response to changing conditions. They may close their stomata at night, for instance, or when the weather is too dry or wet. 

In a sentence

When stomata are closed, pressure inside the plant makes water molecules condense and push out of gaps on the edges and tips of leaves — a process called guttation.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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