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a slitlike opening in the epidermis of aboveground organs of plants. The stoma is bordered by two guard cells, which are usually bean-shaped. The walls of the guard cells that face the stoma are thick, while the opposite walls are thin. The stoma leads to a large intercellular space, the substomatal cavity. The stoma is often surrounded by two or more cells that differ in shape from ordinary epidermal cells.
Stomata are found in the epidermis of all aboveground parts of the plant containing chlorophyll but are especially numerous in leaf epidermis (100–300 per sq mm). They regulate the exchange of gas and water vapor between the atmosphere and the cells of the plant by increasing and decreasing in width. Stomatal movement is effected by changes in the turgor of the guard cells. When turgor is increased, the thin parts of their walls stretch and are drawn away from the stoma. The walls that face the stoma are distended in the same direction, and the stoma opens. When the turgor of the guard cells decreases, the stoma closes. Change in the turgor of the guard cells occurs as a result of reversible conversion of starch, which is osmotically inactive, into osmotically active sugars. However, according to some data, potassium ions play an important, possibly leading, role in regulating the turgor of the guard cells. Scientists are currently investigating these data with the intention of formulating a new hypothesis of the mechanism of stomatal movement.
At night, the stomata of most plants are closed, and gas exchange and transpiration are minimal. During the day, when the weather is fair, the stomata are open. Carbon dioxide gas readily enters the internal tissues of the plant, and oxygen formed as a result of photosynthesis is released with water vapor into the atmosphere.
E. A. MIROSLAVOV