Rhizome Vs Root – What Is The Difference?
There are three main parts of plants – leaves, stems, and roots – but what are rhizomes and how are they different from roots. Rhizome and root are compared in this article to provide a better understanding of their similarities and differences.
Both roots and rhizomes grow underground, but rhizomes have horizontal stems. Rhizomes send upwards roots and stems from their nodes. Rhizomes are the main stem of many plants, such as ginger, calatheas, poplars, and bamboo.
You might wonder what other plants have underground rhizomes, so let’s get a glimpse of what plants have rhizomes, along with their functions.
Stems, Rhizomes, And Roots
The stem, flowers, seeds, fruits, and leaves of a plant are all above ground parts. The plant has parts that grow below ground, such as roots, bulbs, and rhizomes.
Rhizomes and roots, on the other hand, work into the soil and are closely connected. Rhizomes are types of stems, so let’s first examine what stems are, and then contrast them with roots.
The stems of plants act as masts of sailing boats by keeping the plant upright and providing support for the other structures. Besides transporting nutrients and water, stems also provide support to the leaves by acting as a bridge between the roots and other parts of the plant. It is necessary for plants to have enough water in order to live and do their jobs, including to produce oxygen and food for us.
Furthermore, stems transport the nutrients made by the leaves during photosynthesis all the way down to the roots to provide them energy to perform their work. In order to protect themselves against extreme environments or animals that might eat them, stems have evolved over time to adapt to their roles.
Plants with thorns are good examples of above ground stem modifications. Most animals are unable to eat them because they are simply too painful!
Besides protecting plants, stems have evolved modifications that allow them to store more water, so they can endure droughts and low water levels.
Nodes can also be found on some stems, which the plant can use to reproduce. This will have a positive impact on how rapidly the plant spreads.
A rhizome is a stem, but it does not grow upright in the ground. They are the stems of plants, but these stems do not grow above ground. Rhizome roots grow across the ground or just above it, and are often called creeping rootstalks or rootstalks.
If you look at pictures of plants on the ground, you have probably seen plants that grow horizontally, which is why they are called creeping rootstalks.
Structure And Function
A rhizome is divided into nodes arranged in a line, and roots and new plants can sprout from these nodes if the rhizome contains enough nutrition for growth. In fact, the word “rhizome” is derived from the Greek for “to take root.” This means that one function of a rhizome is to store nutrients, carbohydrates, and proteins that the plant might need. Because these structures are storage units, you will notice that they tend to be quite thick.
In addition, rhizomes help the plant reproduce. Since rhizomes grow horizontally, they help the plant spread – hence creeping rootstalks – and, once sufficiently nourished, they can produce new plants. Most rhizomes are underground, and examples include ginger, bamboo, and poison oak. Rhizomes that are found on the ground include ferns and irises.
The rhizomes of a plant store and reproduce, while the roots are the anchors that anchor the plant to the ground and provide it with vital nutrients and water. To explain how this happens, let’s examine how different types of roots feed the rest of the plant.
Among the types of roots, there are taproots and fibrous roots.
There are two types of root systems: taproot and fibrous root. The taproot system consists of one main root that looks like a carrot, while the fibrous root system consists of multiple roots that are all basically the same size. No matter how big or small the root, most roots in either of these systems have a similar structure.
The root tip, unlike rhizomes, is protected by a root cap, which prevents the soft root from coming into contact with the soil. New cells develop at the root tip so that the plant can dig deeper into the earth. This movement is also facilitated by the root cap, which provides greater tensile strength than the tip. Behind the tip, you’ll find a layer of tightly-packed cells that almost look like skin. This is where all the magic happens. Smaller roots, called root hairs, grow from this section of the plant. The purpose of the root hairs is to get water and minerals from the soil and transfer them to the leaves, where they are used for photosynthetic processes.
Roots are the key structure that anchors plants so they don’t fall over, as well as the one that absorbs water and minerals from the soil for the plant to survive.
The roots of plants can serve as a storage place for reserves, just like the rhizomes. The sweet potato is a wonderful example of that.
As opposed to normal potatoes which are tubers, sweet potatoes are storage roots that can be reproduced from, either through their seeds or through their vines.
Food For Thought
Our diet is largely composed of plants, and we eat many different parts of plants. We consume fruits, nuts, leaves, seeds, stems, and roots, but sometimes it is unclear which part we are eating exactly.
It is relatively straightforward to understand which part of the plant we are eating with fruits, seeds, and nuts. However, when we move underground, things become confusing. Taking everything underground as a root is the easiest assumption we can make, and that is where we make our mistake.
Many people are not aware that plants have many other underground structures besides roots.
Rhizome Vs Root – Final Thoughts
A rhizome is a stem that acts as a stem, even if it is underground, which is the main difference between a rhizome and a root. This underground stem produces new branches of the plant and stores food for the leaves and the roots.
Roots and rhizomes share a similar property in that both plant organs are capable of storing nutrients and bringing delicious flavors to our meals. The two structures are entirely different and serve different purposes in the kingdom of Plantae.