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Difference Between Stems and Roots

Difference Between Stems and Roots

Plants are the major producers of our planet. The plants are autotrophic and are designed in a way that they can produce their own food through sunlight, water and nutrients from the soil. Plants have two main parts, namely the stem, which is the part that grows above the ground and the root, which grows below the ground. The stem holds other parts of the plant from above, and the root absorbs water and minerals from the soil. There are differences between stems and roots based on their features and functions.

Table of Contents:

  • What is Stem?
  • Functions of the Stem
  • What is Root?
  • Types of Roots
  • Functions of Roots
  • Difference Between Stems and Roots
  • Practice Problems
  • Frequently Asked Questions

What is Stem?

The stem of the plant emerges from the plumule of the embryo and lies above the soil. Its growth is towards the sun. Thus, it is positively phototropic. It has two primary structural axes. Generally, it is cylindrical; however, it exists in different shapes. The stem bears nodes and internodes, which provide an attachment to the different parts of the plants, such as leaves, branches, flowers and fruits to develop.

Functions of the Stem

Some important functions of the stem are listed below:

  • Stem facilitates the transportation of nutrients and fluid to other parts of the plant.
  • It gives mechanical support to the body of the plant.
  • The stem of the plant transforms into a trunk when the plant grows into a tree.
  • It maintains and provides the proper arrangement of branches and leaves.
  • It is a storage place for nutrients and water. 
  • The cells in the stem produce new live tissue every year, ensuring the lifelong growth of the plant. 
  • It has morphological structures, such as nodes, internodes, and axillary buds.

What is Root?

The Root is a significant part of the plant that anchors the entire plant in the soil. It grows into the soil and absorbs water and nutrients required for the plant’s growth. However, roots can be either aerial or aerating, which means they can also grow above the soil. They emerge from the radicals of the embryo. 

Types of Roots

  • Tap root: This type of root is very thick and grows straight down to the earth. They produce tiny roots to make them the primary and dominant root. They are usually found in vegetable plants. Taproot is present in carrots, beetroots, radishes, etc.
  • Fibrous root: These types of roots are long and grow close to the soil. They grow in large numbers in one equal size. Generally, they grow in a horizontal direction. Some examples of fibrous roots are coconut trees, grass, etc.
  • Adventitious roots: They emerge from the stem or sometimes from leaves. They are abundant on underground stems such as corms, tubers, and rhizomes. Some examples are banyan trees, sugarcane trees, etc.

Functions of Roots

  • Roots absorb water and minerals from the soil and transfer them to other parts of the plants.
  • It helps in anchoring the plant in the soil firmly.
  • Some types of roots facilitate vegetative propagation and serve as storehouses of nutrients.
  • It helps by strongly holding the plant together with the soil to avoid soil erosion.

Difference Between Stems and Roots

The following table shows a detailed difference between stems and roots.



It is a plant part that bears branches, leaves, and fruits.

It is the underground part of the plants that bear root hairs.

Its function is to provide mechanical strength and supply minerals, water, and food to all plant parts.

Its function is to provide anchorage to the plant and facilitate mineral and water absorption from the soil.

Stems are positively phototropic.

Roots are negatively phototropic.

They are multicellular.

They are unicellular.

Usually, Green in colour at younger stages.

Usually, white in colour at younger stages and turns darker or brown.

Presence of nodes and internodes.

Absence of nodes and internodes.

Stem branches have a thick cell wall.

Root hairs have a thinner cell wall.

Stem branches have a longer lifespan than the roots.

Root hairs have a shorter lifespan.

Stem branches are exogenous, or they have an external origin and emerge from axillary buds.

Root branches are endogenous, i.e., they have an internal origin and can emerge from any region.

Xylem and phloem fibres are present 

Xylem and phloem fibres are absent.

The epidermis of the young stem has stomata.

Stomata are absent.

Vascular bundles of stems are conjoint and collateral.

Vascular tissues are radially arranged.

Xylem is endarch

Xylem is exarch

Practice Problems

Q1. Which of the following provides mechanical support to the plant?

A. Root
B. Stem
C. Branches
D. Leaves

Answer: B. Stem

Explanation: The Stem of the plant emerges from the plumule of the embryo and lies above the soil. It gives mechanical support to the body of the plant.

Q2. Which of the following is incorrect about roots?

A. Roots are negatively phototropic.
B. Xylem and phloem fibres are absent.
C. Stomata are present.
D. None of the above

Answer: C. Stomata are present.

Explanation: Stomata is not present in the roots. It is present in the stem and leaves.

Q3. Which of the following root types is present in carrots?

A. Tap root
B. Fibrous root
C. Adventitious root
D. None of the above

Answer: A. Tap root

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the tissue systems present in the structure of the stem?
Ans. The three types of tissue systems are the Epidermal Tissue system which is present in the stem’s outer surface to regulate gas exchange; the Ground Tissue system comprises simple tissues: parenchyma, collenchyma, and sclerenchyma plays an important role in photosynthesis; the Vascular Tissue system contains vascular bundles that are composed of the xylem and phloem.

Q2. What are the different types of leaves?
Ans. Depending on the shape of the leaves, leaves are differentiated into linear, oblong, reniform, ovate and acicular leaves. Based on the presence or absence of petiole leaves, they are divided into Petiolate and Sessile leaves.

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