Difference Between Tracheids and Vessels

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Two types of vascular tissues, xylem and phloem, transfer food, nutrients, water and minerals from roots to leaves. With the help of tracheids and vessels, xylem tissue carries water and minerals from the roots to other areas of the plant. Tracheary elements are another name for these Xylem tissues.

Tracheid and vessel cells die at maturity, have lignified walls, and are found in both primary and secondary Xylem.


Vessels and Tracheids - Similarities

In a lot of aspects, the tracheids and vessels are comparable. Here are some examples of parallels:

  • The complicated xylem tissue is made up of tracheids and vessels.

  • Both aid in water conduction down the stem and provide mechanical support for the plant.

  • Both cells have tubular structures.

  • In both cells, secondary lignification is evident. When they reach adulthood, they die.


Tracheids and Vessels - Introduction

The two water-conducting elements found in the xylem are tracheids and vessels. In ferns and gymnosperms, tracheids are the primary conductors. Angiosperms are the only plants that have vessels. The tracheids have a smaller diameter than vessels. Perforation plates are also present at the ends of the cells in vessels. As a result, water conduction efficiency in vessels is higher than in tracheids. The plants' mechanical strength is provided by both tracheids and vessels. The fundamental distinction between tracheids and vessels is their diameter and water conduction efficiency.



Tracheids are elongated cells present in the xylem of vascular plants which serve in the transportation of water and mineral salts. One of the two types of tracheary elements is tracheids and the other is vessels (which will be described further). Tracheids and Vessels have similar functions but we can spot the difference between tracheids and vessels. One is Tracheids that do not have perforation plates like vessels. Later in this article, a tabular chart will be used to differentiate between tracheids and vessels. 

Talking about Xylem, it is one of the two types of transport tissues in vascular plants and phloem being the other. Xylem’s function is to transport water from roots to stems and leaves, it can also transport various nutrients.



Vessels in plants can be defined as elements found as one of the cell types found in xylem which is the water conducting tissue of plants. Vessels are found in angiosperms, also known as flowering plants but are absent from the most gymnosperms like conifers. Vessels transport water, nutrients and minerals through the plant and are vascular tissues.

So, it can be said that the xylem vessels and tracheids are the main elements that play major roles in water conducting in different kinds of plants. Both are tracheary elements and highly specialized cells that are devoid of protoplast when they mature. Also, are non-living which are elongated in shape with lignified cell walls. However, they differ in their diameter and the efficiency in their functions. More differences between tracheids and vessels are detailed below.

Difference Between Tracheids and Vessels





These are part of xylem which are elongated narrow tube-like dead, empty cells having thick and lignified walls and large cell cavities.

These are cylindrical tubular in structure and form a row of cells that are placed end to end. The cells in vessels are connected with the help of plates with pores which help in moving water upward.


These are found in all vascular plants such as the wood of ferns as well as gymnosperms like pines. 

These are only found in angiosperms such as Mango trees.


Xylem Tracheids function: Its conduction of water and minerals helps in providing mechanical support to the whole plant. 

Xylem Vessels function: Its conduction of water all the way from root to the leaves help in providing mechanical support to the plant. 


These originate from a single cell.

These elements originate from a longitudinal file of cells and produce continuous tubes.


Tracheids consist of a narrow lumen.

Vessels consist of a wide lumen.


These are imperforated cells.

These are perforated cells.


These are inefficient in the conduction of water as they lack perforations.

These are efficient in water conduction as are perforated cells.

Cell wall thickness

They consist of thin cell walls.

They consist of highly thickened cell walls.


They contain polygonal cross-sections.

These consist of circular cross sections.


They have an average 1 mm length, which is comparatively shorter to vessels.

Vessel cells are longer, which is about 10 cm in length, much longer than tracheids.

Structure of Ends

These have conical end walls.

These have diagonal or transverse sidewalls.


These are connected laterally to each other.

These are connected from end to end.

Surface/Volume Ratio

These consist of a high surface/volume ratio.

These consist of a low surface/volume ratio.

Air Embolism

Tracheids help in preventing air embolism due to their high adhesion strength in the narrow tube.

These do not help in preventing air embolism.

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Frequently asked questions

1. What are Xylem and Phloem?

Xylem and phloem are the two types of transportation tissues in vascular plants that are responsible to transport water, sugars and other nutrients around a plant. Xylem is considered as complex, dead and permanent tissues that carry nutrients and water whereas phloem is a soft permanent tissue that transports food and other organic material produced by the green plants, through photosynthesis by the leaves of plants. Tracheids and vessel elements are the two different elements of Xylem whereas companion cells, sieve tubes, phloem fibres and phloem parenchyma are the various elements of Phloem.

2. What are Tracheids?

Tracheids are highly specialized non-living cells that are present in the xylem of plants. These elements help in water conduction and provide mechanical support to the plants. They are not perforated and are found in seedless vascular plants and gymnosperms such as cedar, pine, ferns, mosses, etc. These are present in the form of a single elongated cell with pointed ends and thickened cell wall. Another element of xylem is phloem that also helps in conduction more efficiently than tracheids as these have perforated in nature.

3. What are Tracheids and Vessels?

Tracheids can be seen in angiosperm xylem. They function as conductors. Gymnosperms and ferns also contain them. Tracheid cells are characterised by their pointed ends. On thickening of the secondary cell wall, the tracheids become strongly lignified and die. Tracheids also help the plants with mechanical support. Due to the large surface area to volume ratio, they can also hold water against gravity.


Angiosperms are the only plants that have vessels. They aid in the transport of water and minerals in plants. Dead and tubular cells are created after secondary cell wall thickening and lignification. When these vessels reach maturity, they are devoid of protoplasm.

4. What is the difference between tracheids and vessels?

The Difference is that the Tracheids-

  • Tracheids contain thin cell walls.

  • Tracheids are the smallest cells in the body (about 1 mm long).

  • Because tracheids are imperforated cells, they are inefficient at transferring water.

  • Tracheids contain polygonal cross-sections.

  • Tracheids contain tapering end walls.

  • Tracheids are laterally connected.

  • Tracheids consist of a high surface-to-volume ratio.

  • Their high adhesive force in the tight tube, tracheids prevent air embolism.

While the Vessels: 

  • Vessels are elongated dead cells present in blooming plants' xylem, with punctured cell walls through which water flows.

  • Angiosperms are the only plants that have vessels.

  • A longitudinal file of cells gives rise to vessels. As a result, they create continuous tubes.

  • Vessels have a large lumen.

  • A considerable number of tiny pits can be seen in vessels.

  • Perforated cells make up vessels.

  • Conduction Efficiency of Water

  • Water conduction is efficient in vessels.

  • The cell walls of vessels have thickened significantly.

  • Circular cross-sections are found in vessels.

  • Longer cells make up vessels (about 10 cm long).

  • Vessels have end walls that are diagonal or transverse.

  • End-to-end connections are used to join vessels.

  • Vessels have a small surface-to-volume ratio.

  • The air embolism is not prevented by vessels.

5. What is the structure of Tracheid Cells?

Tracheids are the most basic cell type in the xylem. They are elongated tube-like cells with tapering ends and have a chisel-like appearance. The cells are no longer active when they reach maturity, and they are bereft of protoplast. The cells are angular and polygonal in cross-section, and the secondary cell wall is extensively lignified. On average, the tracheid is 5–6 mm long.

Pits perforate a considerable section of the tracheid cell wall. They also have pit pairs between two neighbouring tracheids on their shared walls. Pits might be simple circular pits or complicated bordered pits.

Tracheids are the only xylem element seen in Pteridophytes. Tracheids make up the majority of Gymnosperm secondary xylem. In Angiosperms, tracheids coexist with other xylem components. Certain early Angiosperms, such as Drimys, Trochodendron, and Tetracentron, have only tracheids in their xylem (vessels absent).

6. What is the relationship between Vessel Structure and Functions?

A lengthy tube-like structure made up of a sequence of cells arranged end to end makes up the vascular system. Each cell is referred to as a "vessel member" or "vessel element." Water and minerals can readily move between the cells thanks to perforations (large apertures) in the end walls of each vessel part. Typically, vessel members are shorter than tracheids. Vessels, on the other hand, are substantially larger than tracheids in diameter. This allows water to flow through the vessel lumen more rapidly and efficiently.


Advanced vascular cells have a shorter length and a larger diameter, and they have a drum-like form (as in Quercus alba). The terminal wall of either vascular member is oblique or transverse. Vessels with oblique ends are thought to be primitive, whereas those with transverse ends are thought to be advanced. A tail-like tip extends beyond the terminal wall in some species, such as Malus. The apertures or pores in the end wall of each vessel are known as perforations (Perforation plate: the region of the vessel with perforation occurs). Perforations on the end wall are the most common, however, lateral perforations can also occur.

7. What are the highlights of the chapter - Difference between Tracheids and Vessels?

The Highlights are-

  • The endplates of vessels have holes, whereas the endplates of tracheids do not.

  • Tracheids are made up of single cells, whereas vessels are made up of a group of cells.

  • Tracheids can be found in all vascular plants, but vessels are only seen in angiosperms.

  • Tracheids are small and narrow, whereas vessel components are large and wide.

  • When compared to vessel elements, tracheids have a substantially higher surface-to-volume ratio.

  • Vessels are larger than the tracheids they are connected to.

  • The perforated plate has a distinct morphology than tracheids.

  • The vessel components of angiosperms are shorter than the tracheids.

  • In comparison to arteries, tracheids are considered primitive cells.

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