Cohesion of Water Molecules

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Water transport in plants. Because of the properties of cohesion and adhesion, the tallest trees can transport water more than 100 m upward—approximately one-quarter the height of the Empire State Building in New York City.
Source: Urry, Lisa A.. Campbell Biology (p. 46). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.

Cohesion of Water Molecules (Campbell Biology)

Water molecules stay close to each other as a result of hydrogen bonding. Although the arrangement of molecules in a sample of liquid water is constantly changing, at any given moment many of the molecules are linked by multiple hydrogen bonds. These linkages make water more structured than most other liquids. Collectively, the hydrogen bonds hold the substance together, a phenomenon called cohesion.

Cohesion due to hydrogen bonding contributes to the transport of water and dissolved nutrients against gravity in plants. Water from the roots reaches the leaves through a network of water-conducting cells. As water evaporates from a leaf, hydrogen bonds cause water molecules leaving the veins to tug on molecules farther down, and the upward pull is transmitted through the water-conducting cells all the way to the roots. Adhesion, the clinging of one substance to another, also plays a role. Adhesion of water by hydrogen bonds to the molecules of cell walls helps counter the downward pull of gravity.

Related to cohesion is surface tension, a measure of how difficult it is to stretch or break the surface of a liquid. At the interface between water and air is an ordered arrangement of water molecules, hydrogen-bonded to one another and to the water below, but not to the air above. This asymmetry gives water an unusually high surface tension, making it behave as though it were coated with an invisible film. You can observe the surface tension of water by slightly overfilling a drinking glass; the water will stand above the rim.


Urry, Lisa A.. Campbell Biology. Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.

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