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Sunflower Stem Hilianthus (Typical Annual Dicot), 400X
The epidermis protects the stem from drying out as well as insect or parasite damage. The cortex and pith store food that is absorbed from the phloem. The vascular bundle contains xylem and phloem; the xylem transports water up the stem to the leaves and the phloem transports sugar down (usually) toward the roots. The sclerenchyma cells are stiff and aid in stem support.