The absorption of water by the roots of the plants takes place in two ways:

  • Active absorption
  • Passive absorption

In the active absorption, the water first enters the cell sap and passes from one cell to another. This type of movement where protoplasm is involved is called symplast.

In passive absorption, water moves through the apoplast of the root. The apoplast path includes the cell wall and intercellular spaces.

Apoplast and Symplast

Apoplast and symplast are two separate pathways in plants that initiate the passage of water along with ions from root hair via root cortex to xylem elements. These routes may exist either simultaneously or separately having different rates.

Let us have a detailed look at apoplast and symplast and the difference between the two.

Also Read: Transportation in Plants


Apoplast and Symplast

What is Apoplast?

Apoplast is the space outside the plasma membrane consisting of intercellular spaces where the material diffuses freely. It does not involve protoplasm in the plant tissues but involves the non-living parts of the plant such as cell wall and intercellular spaces.

Apoplast Pathway

In the apoplast pathway, water is transported from root hair to xylem through the cell wall of intervening cells. The apoplastic route is blocked by a Casparian strip of endodermal cells. Hence, the symplastic route is utilized to deliver water and ions over the cortex. Since apoplast is made up of non-living components, the apoplastic route is least affected by the metabolic state of the root.

What is Symplast?

Symplast consists of cytoplasm network of every plant cell interconnected by plasmodesmata. Symplast does not involve intercellular spaces and cell wall and therefore considered as the complete living component of the plant tissue.

Symplast Pathway

The pathways of ion and water created by symplast are known as the symplastic pathway. This pathway offers resistance to the flow of water since the selective plasma membrane of the root cells handles the intake of ion and water. Moreover, symplasty is affected by metabolic states of the root. The symplastic route occurs beyond the endodermis in plants with secondary growth.

Difference between Apoplast and Symplast

The major difference between apoplast and symplast is as follows:

Criteria Apoplast Symplast
Parts Consist of intercellular spaces and cell wall. Consist of protoplasm.
Living and Nonliving parts Consists of non-living parts. Consists of living parts.
The rate of Pathways Apoplastic pathway is fast. Symplastic pathway is slower than the apoplastic pathway.
Metabolic State No effect on water movement. Metabolic states interfere with the flow of water in the symplastic pathway.
Transportation More ion and water are transported through the apoplastic pathway in the cortex. Water and ion are mainly delivered through the symplastic pathway beyond cortex.
To know more about apoplast and symplast and the difference between apoplast and symplast, keep visiting BYJU’S website or download BYJU’S app for further reference.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you mean by the apoplast pathway?

In the apoplast pathway, the water moves through the adjacent wall of epidermis and cortex without entering the cytoplasm.

What is an apoplast?

Apoplast is the system of adjacent, continuous cell walls. It refers to the space outside the plasma membrane within which the molecules can freely diffuse.

Is apoplast active or passive absorption?

Apoplast is the passive absorption that takes place through the apoplast of the root that comprises cell wall and intercellular spaces.

What is the importance of Casparian strip?

Casparian strip is a band of waterproof tissue found on the side walls of the endodermis of roots. The strip prevents water from entering the pericycle that is important in inducing root pressure.

Explore Your Knowledge!


  1. Very useful. thank you

  2. It’s nice and useful
    Thank you

  3. When we say (sap), does that mean apoplast or symplast !!

  4. Thank you so much

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