From Seed to Seed:
Plant Science for K-8 Educators


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Introduction to roots

"... the underground stuff"

The leaves, flowers, and fruit get all of the glory, but the roots make it happen.

Picture yourself digging into compacted clay or stone-filled soil. Not very easy, is it? But roots do it all the time! Plants grow in all sorts of climates and conditions, in part because of their roots' remarkable ability to grow through all but the worst soils. Many plants can survive in poor soil, but most will really thrive in rich, loose, loamy soil. Successful gardeners know that it is important to consider their plants' underground world, and to create the best environment for the roots to do their jobs.

Just what are these jobs? Roots have several important, if not glamorous, functions:
  • They absorb water and dissolved nutrients.

  • They anchor the plant in place.

  • Many roots store food in the form of carbohydrates, keeping it as a reserve until it is needed.

Roots vary in shape and size depending on their primary role. Let's look at each of the functions, and see how different roots have evolved to fill these roles.

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