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Specialized Roots

Like stems, roots have evolved diverse form and function among different plants.

    Food Storage Roots

    Foor Storage Roots sequester starch,
    The plant draws on this store for metabolic activities
    later in the season, such as flowering.

    Carrots, beets, turnips, and sweet potatoes
    are familiar examples.

    Water Storage Roots

    Many plants living in very arid habitats have roots
    that collect large amounts of water during rainy season.

    The plant draws on its stores throughout the dry season.

    Adventitious Roots

    Adventitious Roots arise from a non-root organ (stem or leaf).

    Adventitious roots may be produced either

    • during normal development
    • in response to stress conditions
      • flooding
      • nutrient deprivation
      • wounding

    Propagative Roots

    Propagative roots have meristematic regions from which
    new, genetically identical plantlets sprout.

    These regions are not the same as axillary buds at stem nodes. They lack a true apical meristem.

    <--- Agave propagates from roots.


    Pneumatophores (Greek pneum, "breathe" and phor, "to bear")
    are aerial roots whose tips are equipped with numerous lenticels.

    The root tips protrude from water-logged soil
    to provide gas exchange surface.

    You can visit pneumatophores on our local shorelines in the mangrove forests.

    Prop Roots

    Prop roots grow from the lower stem or trunk and provide extra support.

    They are most commonly seen in

    • plants with relatively flexible, tall stems
    • plants that live in softer soils

    Aerial Roots

    Aerial roots are typically found in epiphytes such as orchids and bromeliads.

    They sometimes can grow adventitiously from branches of certain species of soil-anchored plants.

    Buttress Roots

    Buttress roots are wall-like extensions from the base of the trunk.

    They provide support against physical assault from high winds
    exerting force on the canopy.

    Our native Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea) and some popular ornamentals
    such as the Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) tend to develop these
    when grown in shallow soil over a solid coral rock base.

    Contractile Roots

    Contractile roots are most often found at the base
    of a corm, bulb, or other underground structure.

    During drought, they expand and contract vertically,
    pulling the bulb deeper into the soil to a level appropriate
    for its species and the environmental conditions.


    Haustoria are specialized, peg-like modified roots that tap into a host plant's vascular bundles to extract water, carbohydrates, and nutrients.

    Parasitic dodders (Cuscuta spp., Convolvulaceae) have little or no chlorophyll, and must feed on a host plant via haustoria.