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Underground Stem

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Stems: The Support System of Plants

We can see lots of plants around us and they are of different types. The plants have different parts and the stem is the support system of plants. The stem is the ascending part and it bears leaves, fruits and branches.

The stem has nodes and internodes. The nodes are the region from which the plants originate. Internodes are those between two nodes. The stem has many functions. Some of them include the storage and transportation of food, water and nutrients, vegetative propagation, and bearing of leaves and fruits. There are three types of stems. They are underground stem, aerial stem, and subaerial stem.

Stem Structure of a Plant

Stem Structure of a Plant

Underground Stem: The Storage Hub of Plants

Underground stems are those which are modified plants. They are derived from tissues of the stem and grow under the soil. To transport water and nutrients to and from the leaves and flowers, the stems are modified. Unlike roots, stems have nodes with buds where leaves and flowers can grow in specified places. Plants use underground stems to reproduce asexually and live from one year to the next, generally during a time of hibernation.

Some plants develop stems that have been modified to store energy and protect a spot for future growth to survive a cold or dry time. Once that period has passed, the plants then start growing again from the underground stems. Being underground shields the stems from the weather and fire. They can also shield plants from animals. Many plants, especially weedy ones, spread and occupy vast regions through underground stems.

Underground Stems

Underground Stems

Modifications of Stem

Many plants have modified stems that serve a variety of uses, including storage, protection, photosynthesis, support, propagation, etc. Modifications facilitate improved adaptation and survival.

Types of Underground Stem Modifications

There are different types of underground stems. They include rhizomes, bulbs, corms, stolon, and tubers. Rhizomes have distinct nodes and internodes and are non-green. These are brownish. Due to the storage of food material, the main forms of rhizomes are fleshy. Rhizome rootstock grows vertically upward. Alocasia, Iris and banana are two examples of rhizomes.

Bulbs have several leaves with fleshy scales. A collection of adventitious roots makes up the bulb's base. For example, onions and garlic. The corm has a flattened base and a spherical form. Its internodes and nodes are distinct. Adventitious roots can be found at the body's base and there are axillary buds. For example, Colocasia.

A tuber is a fleshy component of the plant that stores food. The most common tuber is the potato. It has several depressions called "eye" and each eye refers to a node. These grow quite slowly and are mostly used as food.

Underground Stem Modifications

Underground Stem Modifications

Types of Aerial Stem Modifications

To carry out tasks including climbing, food storage, vegetative proliferation, and protection, the stems are modified into aerial forms.

Stem Tendrils are modified stems that are leafless, threadlike structures. The purpose of them is for climbing. The stem tendrils can be: axillary: For example, Passiflora, extra-axillary: for example, Luffa, apical bud, such as grapevine, and floral bud, such as the antigonon.

Thorns are sharp, rigid objects that might or might not have leaves, branches, and flowers. Thorns develop on the terminal bud. Thorns serve as defensive tools and control transpiration. Example: Bougainvillea.

Phylloclades are leaves that have been transformed into scales or spines to control transpiration. By limiting the growth of the leaves, this is achieved. These participate in photosynthesis and are fleshy and green. Xerophytic plants like opuntia exhibit this modification, which retains water. It has leaves converted into spines or tiny scaly leaves and mushy internodes.

Cladodes are a particular variety of phylloclade that has just one internode. Photosynthesis is aided by these. One example is asparagus. Here the leaves have been modified to have prickles. Bulbils are modified axillary floral or vegetative buds modified to store food. They develop into new plants through vegetative propagation. One example is Dioscorea. Thalamus functions as the flower's axis and contains the calyx, corolla, androecium, and gynoecium. Clear nodes and internodes can be seen in Silene.

Aerial Modification of Stem

Aerial Modification of Stem

Can We Eat the Stem?

Yes, we can eat the stem. A modified stem is a storage house of food and nutrients. So these can be consumed by human beings and other living beings. Some of them are:

  • Potatoes

  • Asparagus

  • Cauliflower

  • Kohlrabi

  • Bamboo

  • Sugarcane

  • Celery

Edible Stems

Edible Stems

Parts of a Stem

A typical plant stem is made up of eight different parts, six of which are elements and two of which are organs. Nodes, internodes, terminal or apical buds, lateral or axillary buds, petiole, and pedicel are the first six components. While the two organs are flowers and leaves, respectively.

  • Nodes – Provide structural support and help to heal injuries.

  • Internodes – They are the blood vessels that carry food and nutrients between two nodes.

  • Terminal buds – Provides growth hormones.

  • Lateral buds – Helps to develop the vegetative parts of the plant.

  • Petiole – It provides strength and support to the leaf.

  • Pedicel – Helps in attracting pollinators.

  • Flowers – Helps in the sexual reproduction of plants.

  • Leaves – Helps in photosynthesis.

Parts of the Stem

Parts of the Stem

Important Questions

1. Underground parts of plants are not always roots. Justify.

Ans: Not all underground plant parts are roots because oftentimes the stem also goes underground and develops into different forms to serve diverse tasks including storage, vegetative propagation, perennation, etc. Tuber, rhizome, corm, and bulb are underground stem modifications. The existence of nodes and internodes, axillary buds, scale leaves, etc., as well as the absence of a root cap and root hairs, allow one to identify underground stems from roots from the outside. Thus all underground parts of the plants are not always roots.

2. What are some functions of the stem?

Ans: The elevation of flowers, leaves, and fruits is supported by the stem. It aids in transportation while also storing nutrients. Meristems found in stems aid in the growth of new living tissue.

Practise Questions

  1. Potato tuber is an underground stem because ___________.

  2. Thorns and spines are _______.


  1. It lacks axillary buds

  2. Homologous organs

Key Features

  • Stem is an integral part of the plant. The stem gives support to the plant and it is the storage hub of the plants.

  • The stem stores and transports food and other nutrients. Also, it supports transpiration. The stem is modified for better survival and adaptation.

  • There are three types of stem modification. Stem modifications also help in the storage of food and nutrients.

  • The stem can be consumed by living beings as it is a storehouse of nutrients.

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FAQs on Underground Stem

1. What are the major modifications of the underground stem?

The following are the underground stem modifications:

  • Tuber: A branch of the main stem that gathers or stores nourishment and swells up, such as a potato.

  • Rhizome: A branched, horizontally growing stem with nodes and internodes. Sessile scale leaves, such as Carina, ginger, turmeric, and others, form at the nodes.

  • Corm: This is a spherical element. A thick underground stem that is branching and grows vertically; examples include saffron, Gladiolus, Arvi, etc.

  • Bulb: The stem of a bulb is significantly diminished and can only be seen as a disc-like structure containing numerous fleshy scaly leaves, such as onion, garlic, and so on.

2. Which of the stems is edible?

Food produced by photosynthesis in the leaves flows down the stems to the roots and fruits, while water and nutrients taken by the roots travel up the stems to other sections of the plant. The edible stems are all celery, asparagus, bamboo shoots, rhubarb, and sugar cane. Other plant stems, such as broccoli and cauliflower, are also edible. Granulated sugar is made from sugar cane and sugar beet aboveground stems. The trunks of maple trees are used to make maple sugar. Cinnamon is derived from the bark of the Cinnamomum genus of trees. Potatoes are edible.

3. What are the three important features of the underground stems?

Underground stems help with vegetative propagation as well as protection from harsh and dangerous weather conditions. Underground stems have nodes, internodes, scale leaves, buds, and other characteristics similar to aerial stems. Its various forms include rhizomes, tubers, and corms. Roots are branched structures with no nodes or nodes between them. Its types are taproot and fibrous systems. A variety of plants, including weeds, use underground stems to spread and cover wide regions. Because the stems do not need to be supported or robust, less energy and resources are required to generate these stems, and these plants frequently have more mass underneath than above ground.

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