Difference between Vascular and Non-vascular Plants

Vascular plants have a well defined vascular system consisting of xylem and phloem for transportation of water and food, respectively. Vascular plants are also known as tracheophytes. They include pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms. Non-vascular plants lack a specialised vascular system for transporting water and nutrients. They may contain simple structures that may specialise to perform transportation, e.g. algae and bryophytes.

Difference between Vascular and Non-vascular Plants

The table below shows the main differences between vascular and non-vascular plants.

Vascular Plants

Non-vascular Plants

They have a well developed vascular system

They lack a specialised vascular system

They possess true roots, stem and leaves

They lack true roots, stems and leaves

The main plant body is the diploid sporophyte

The main plant body is the haploid gametophyte

They contain complex vascular tissues, i.e. xylem and phloem

They lack xylem and phloem

They may grow very tall

They are small in size

They may or may not require water for fertilisation

They require water for fertilisation

Examples: pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms

Examples: algae and bryophytes

What are Vascular Plants?

Vascular plants are also known as tracheophytes. They contain vascular tissues, i.e. xylem and phloem. Xylem is a lignified tissue that conducts water and minerals to the plant parts from the root. Phloem is a non-lignified tissue that conducts food produced by photosynthesis to other parts of the plant. Xylem and phloem are arranged in close proximity and in a well-defined pattern to form vascular bundles.

Vascular plants possess true stems, roots and leaves. The main plant body is the sporophyte, which is diploid.

Vascular plants include pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms. The vascular tissues of pteridophytes and gymnosperms slightly differ from angiosperms. The xylem of angiosperms contains tracheids and vessels, whereas pteridophytes and gymnosperms lack vessels. The phloem of angiosperms contains companion cells and sieve tubes, whereas gymnosperms and pteridophytes lack companion cells and sieve tubes and they possess sieve cells.

What are Non-vascular Plants?

Non-vascular plants, as the name suggests, lack vascular bundles. They are small in size and may possess simpler structures for the conduction of water and nutrients.

Bryophytes such as mosses and algae are non-vascular plants. They do not possess true roots, stems and leaves. Xylem and phloem are absent. Bryophytes include liverworts, hornworts and mosses.

The main plant body of non-vascular plants is a haploid gametophyte, which is the dominant stage of their lifecycle. Non-vascular plants are often called pioneer species that colonise first in the newly created or barren territories.

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