What Do Plants Store Their Energy As After Photosynthesis?

Plants are autotrophic organisms, meaning they produce their own food through the process of photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, plants use energy from sunlight, carbon dioxide from the air, and water to produce carbohydrates. The main carbohydrate that plants produce is glucose, a simple sugar. This glucose is stored and then used by the plant as energy to grow, reproduce and carry out other functions. So in essence, plants store the glucose they produce from photosynthesis as their main source of energy.


Glucose is the primary simple sugar produced during photosynthesis. It is a monosaccharide, meaning it is made up of only one sugar unit. Glucose has the molecular formula C6H12O6 and is sometimes referred to as dextrose or grape sugar.

During photosynthesis, plants use energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose molecules. This process takes place in the chloroplasts of plant cells, which contain the green pigment chlorophyll that captures light energy.

Glucose is soluble in water and circulates through the vascular system of plants. It serves as an immediate energy source for plant metabolism and growth. Any excess glucose is often converted into insoluble carbohydrates like starch for storage.


After photosynthesis, plants take the glucose molecules produced and bind them together to form starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate that plants produce and store as an energy reserve. Multiple glucose molecules, typically hundreds or thousands, are linked together through bonds between the hydroxyl groups on each glucose molecule to create one large starch molecule. This becomes insoluble and precipitates out in the chloroplast of plant cells, forming granules where it can be stored. Having glucose in the form of starch allows plants to stockpile the energy from photosynthesis in a compact space without impacting the osmotic pressure in the cell. When the plant later needs energy, enzymes can break down the bonds in starch, releasing glucose molecules that can be sent throughout the plant and used in respiration or other metabolic processes.

plants store glucose from photosynthesis as insoluble starch


After photosynthesis, plants store the glucose produced in the form of starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate that is made up of many glucose molecules bonded together. Unlike glucose, starch is insoluble in water, making it an ideal way for plants to stockpile the glucose they produce during the day.

Because starch is insoluble, it can be easily stored in plant cells without affecting osmotic pressure or chemical balances. Starch granules form inside chloroplasts and other plastids, accumulating there as the glucose is synthesized but not immediately needed. Plants can then draw on these starch reserves when the conditions are right, breaking down the starch back into glucose molecules to power growth, maintenance, and other metabolic processes.

Starch storage offers plants both spatial and temporal flexibility. The insoluble starch granules can cram into chloroplasts and cells without diffusing away. And the starch remains stored over time, ready to be accessed whenever the plant requires additional glucose fuel.

Where Plants Store Starch

Plants store starch in various parts of the plant body. The main locations where starch is stored are:

  • Leaves – Starch is produced in the leaves during photosynthesis. Some of this starch is stored in the leaves themselves, often in the chloroplasts.

  • Stems – Starch travels from the leaves to the stems for storage. Stems, like trunks and branches, serve as a reservoir for starch storage.

  • Roots – Roots also store significant amounts of starch that is translocated from the leaves. Starch storage in roots provides energy for root growth and functioning.

By storing starch in leaves, stems, and roots, plants have energy reserves available across the plant body for vital processes like new growth, flowering, and fruit production.


Plants break down starch into glucose when they need energy. This glucose is then transported throughout the plant and used in various cellular processes that require energy, such as growth, repair, and maintenance. The starch reserves act as an energy “battery” that plants can tap into when needed.

During the day, plants produce more glucose through photosynthesis than they can immediately use, so the excess is stored as starch. At night when photosynthesis stops, plants switch to consuming the stored starch via a process called starch metabolism. The starch is broken down to provide glucose for respiration and continued metabolic activity in the absence of light.

Starch breakdown also occurs when plants need extra energy for specific purposes, like developing flowers and fruits or recovering from damage. The rate of starch metabolism increases to release more glucose to fuel these energy-intensive activities. So in summary, starch functions as a way for plants to stockpile the energy from photosynthesis for later use.

Other Sugars

Plants produce more than just glucose during photosynthesis. Two other important sugars are fructose and sucrose.

Fructose, also known as fruit sugar, is a simple monosaccharide found in many plants. It is sweeter than glucose and is metabolized differently by the human body. Fructose is present in fruit, vegetables and honey.

Sucrose, commonly known as table sugar, is a disaccharide made up of one glucose and one fructose molecule bonded together. Sucrose is efficiently transported and stored in plants. It is found in sugar cane, sugar beets and nectar.

Both fructose and sucrose are products of photosynthesis and important energy sources for plants. Along with glucose, they provide the carbohydrates plants need for energy and growth.


Plants produce another important substance from glucose called cellulose. Cellulose is a structural carbohydrate that makes up plant cell walls and gives them structure and support. Unlike starch, cellulose is made up long chains of glucose molecules bonded together. This makes cellulose fibers very strong, insoluble, and resistant to digestion. Cellulose is essential for plants to grow upright and achieve heights necessary for capturing sunlight for photosynthesis. Interestingly, herbivores cannot digest cellulose on their own, and rely on bacteria in their digestive system to break it down. Cellulose is the most abundant source of carbohydrates on Earth because so much plant matter contains it.


While glucose and starch can be converted back and forth for a plant’s energy needs, cellulose cannot be converted back to glucose. This is because the glucose molecules in cellulose are bonded differently, with beta linkages instead of alpha linkages. The enzymes plants use to break down starch into glucose cannot act on these beta linkages. Therefore, cellulose is a more permanent form of energy storage. Once glucose molecules are bonded into cellulose for structural purposes like plant cell walls, they cannot be broken back down into glucose to be used for energy again. This one-way conversion makes cellulose a very stable and resilient form of energy storage and biomaterial for plants.


Photosynthesis is the process plants use to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose, using energy from sunlight. This glucose is then stored as starch and sugars in the plant cells. Starch is the main form of energy storage in plants, while sugars like sucrose, glucose and fructose are also produced and stored. Starch is made up of long chains of glucose molecules and is insoluble and compact, allowing plants to store large amounts of glucose energy efficiently. Sugars are also important for plants, providing soluble energy storage and transport, structure in cell walls, and chemical energy for processes. Both starch and sugars produced through photosynthesis provide the chemical energy plants require for metabolism, growth and development. In conclusion, photosynthesis allows plants to store the energy they capture from sunlight in high-energy organic molecules like starch and sugars.

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