Botany online 1996-2004. No further update, only historical document of botanical science!


Roots, the lower, underground part of a plant are characterized by their lack of leaves. They are the structures that function to take up water, nutriments and minerals from the soil. The primary root is the main axis of a root system. Mostly, it bears thinner side-roots. Special types of primary roots are tap roots or turnips. Adventitious roots are roots originating directly from the stem.

The most striking morphological feature of roots is their lack of leaves. Roots are organized into primary roots and side-roots. The latter may develop a frequently branched and extensive root system. Among the prominent types of roots are the tap roots where the primary root is dominant while the side-roots are hardly developed at all. The primary root grows deep into the soil. Swollen roots that have developed into storage organs are called turnips. Their formation may involve the hypocotyl ( the part between the neck of the root and the part where the leaves insert; see picture: an extremely long hypocotyl, cotyledons and primary leaves of an African leguminosa). Swollen side-roots can also become storage organs (tubers).

The root-system of many monocots (like, that of the poaceae,for example) is completely formed from adventitious roots. Adventitious roots are roots that originate directly at the shoot. Rhizomes and shoots that touch the soil are able to form adventive roots. This fact is used to propagate plants vegetatively through cuttings (parts with nodes in them).

Epiphytes do often develop air roots. They are, just like usual roots able to take up minerals and rain water and sometimes they can even perform photosynthesis.

Click in the picture to open an AVI file, click again to observe the growth following the water distribution

The picture shows a two-dimensional model of a root seeking water in the soil during its development. The initial water distribution has been predetermined, forming an S-shaped zone of high concentration indicated by the light colour. The growing tips of the main root and rootlets absorb water that diffuses in the soil. The decreased water concentration is indicated by dark areas that emerge around the root system. In areas with insufficient water concentration the rootlets cease to grow before they have reached their potential full length. (from the Virtual Laboratory).

© Peter v. Sengbusch - Impressum