Last updated: November 18, 2021

What Does Imbibition Mean?

Imbibition is a seed's or a plant’s absorption of water, a process that causes swelling in some plant cells and organs.

Seeds undergo imbibition swelling when exposed to water. The process of imbibition is important to the plant since it encourages seedlings to emerge out of the soil and establish themselves.


Maximum Yield Explains Imbibition

An example of imbibition swelling is how dry wood increases in volume when drenched in water.

Imbibition is also important to plants and seed germination since this process stimulates the breaking of the testa (outer protective seed coat). Imbibition is still dormant when water is first absorbed by the roots; it only kicks into action when water starts to move into the ovules. At this particular stage, it is the process of imbibition that ripens the ovules into seeds.

The absence of imbibition causes wilting. This is more common in dry and hot climates, where a plant loses more water than is available. If there is a lack of imbibition, leaves and shoots may start to drop and the cells start to become flaccid. The cellular walls may also shrink.


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