The plants that we see today is the result of billions of years of evolution. Today, plants cover almost 30 per cent of the total land mass and account to for 50 per cent of plant productivity (generation of biomass). Plants fulfil many roles in the ecosystem. They are a source of sustenance, shelter, maintain the integrity of soil (by preventing erosion) and most importantly, generate oxygen.
Anatomically, plants are very complex organisms that are classified into various types based on certain defining characteristics. Roots are very important structures that provide a variety of functions, but contrary to popular belief, all plants do not have roots. Roots are absent in plants like mosses and liverworts.
What is a Root?
A root is the part of the plant responsible for anchoring it down to the ground and absorbing essential nutrients, minerals and water from the soil. It also used to store food. But not all plants have their roots underground, for instance, plants such as ivy have roots that are present entirely off the ground.
Types of Roots
All roots have similar functions, however, their structure varies. Hence, based on this criteria, roots are classified into two types:
- Tap-root system
- Fibrous root system
Taproots have a main central root upon which, small, lateral roots called root hairs are attached. e.g., Mustard, China rose
Fibrous roots, on the other hand, are bushy roots in which thin, moderately branching roots grow from the stem. e.g., Rice, Wheat
Functions of the Root
Roots perform various functions that are necessary for the survival of the plants. They are an integral system that helps the plant in:
- Anchoring: Roots are the reason plants remain attached to the ground. They support the plant body, ensuring that it stands erect.
- Absorption: Primary function of roots is to absorb water and dissolved minerals from the soil. This is crucial as it helps in the process of photosynthesis.
- Storage: Plants prepares food and store in the form of starch in the leaves, shoots and roots. Prominent examples include carrots, radish, beetroot, etc.
- Reproduction: Even though roots are not the reproductive part of plants, they are vegetative parts. In some plants, roots are means of reproduction. For instance, new plants arise from creeping horizontal stems called runners (stolons) in jasmine, grass, etc. This type of reproduction is called vegetative propagation.
- Ecological Function: They check soil erosion, provide sustenance and also habitat to various organisms.
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