Difference Between Stems and Roots


  • This plant part lies above the soil surface emerging from the plumule of the embryo, exhibiting growth that is positively phototropic and negatively geotropic
  • These structures possess internodes and nodes from which different plant structures develop such as leaves, branches, flower buds, bracts
  • Functions –
  • Fluid and nutrition transport
  • Mechanical support
  • Appropriate arrangement of leaves and branches
  • Nutrients storage
  • Infinite growth
  • Production of new organs/tissues
  • Stem consists of the following morphologically – nodes, apical and axillary buds, internodes
  • They develop from apical meristematic tissue – vegetative cones


  • One of the major vegetative organs of vascular plants that are linked to their substrates are roots, ideally underground
  • Found below the soil surface, it emerges from the radical of the embryo
  • Exhibit growth that is positively geotropic and negatively phototropic
  • They are not differentiated into internodes and nodes
  • Functions –
  • Water absorption
  • Nutrient storage
  • Anchoring plants
  • Infinite growth
  • Vegetative propagation
  • Roots can be any of these depending on their origin and development – main root, adventitious roots, lateral roots

Difference Between Stems and Roots

Listed below are some of the important differences between stems and stems

Characteristics Stems Roots
What it means Plant structures bearing shoots and buds with leaves Part of the vascular plant that is underground typically
Primary function Supply minerals, water and food to all plant parts Anchor the plant, water and mineral absorption
Property of growing towards light – Phototropism Positively phototropic Negatively phototropic
Property of growing towards soil – Geotropism Negatively geotropic Positively geotropic
Morphological differences Bears leaves, flowers and buds Bears flowers and buds
Instead of shoot tip possess a terminal bud Root cap at the root tip
Can either be unicellular or multicellular, stem hairs – present throughout Unicellular root hair – at the cluster, behind root cap
At younger stages, typically green in colour Typically white in younger stages, grows darker
Possess nodes and internodes Nodes and internodes – absent
Root hair –

  • Prevent water loss from the surface of stem
  • Thick cell wall
  • Longer life span compared to shoot hair
Root hair –

  • Absorbs water and minerals from soil
  • Thin cell wall
  • Short-lived
Stem branches are exogenous and emerge from axillary buds Root branches are endogenous, can emerge from any region
Anatomical differences Epidermal cells cutinized Epidermal cells are not cutinized
Function of epidermis – protection Function of epidermis – to absorb nutrients and water
Epidermis of young stem has stomata Stomata absent
Cortex – narrow

Cortex differentiated into – outer, middle and inner cortex

Cortex – broad

Cortex undifferentiated

Hypodermis present in an unrecognizable pattern in the endodermis Hypodermis absent.

Endodermis is distinctly prominent

Chlorenchyma – present (in outer cortical cells) Chlorenchyma – absent
Pericycle – multilayered. Important in secondary thickening Pericycle – uninuclear. Important in secondary thickening
Xylem – endarch Xylem – exarch
Xylem and phloem fibres – present Xylem and phloem fibres – absent
Vascular bundles – conjoint and collateral Vascular tissues – radial
Secondary vascular growth – Present by cambium by both intra and interfascicular Secondary vascular growth – if present emerges from conjunctive parenchyma and pericycle


Stems and roots constitute important plant structures forming the root system and shoot system. Explore details on other plant structures, along with their differences, types and much more at BYJU’S.

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