Difference Between Stems and Roots

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Stems and Roots- Important Plant Parts

The producers on our planet, plants are autotrophic in nature. Plants are designed in such a way that they can produce their own food from sunlight, water, and minerals in the soil. The two main parts of a plant body are the stem, the part that stays above the ground and holds the other parts of the plant, and the root which grows below the ground and helps keep the plant fixed in one place. The roots absorb minerals and water. Both these plant parts have many important functions on which the survival of the plants depend.


The stem of a plant emerges from the plumule of the embryo, exhibiting growth that is positively phototropic and negatively geotropic. Stems have nodes and internodes that facilitate the growth of different plant structures such as leaves, branches, flower buds, etc.

Functions of the Stem

  • To facilitate fluid and nutrition transport.

  • Provide mechanical support to the plant body. It changes into a trunk as the plant grows into a tree. The trunk is the hard, brown part that gives physical support. 

  • To provide an appropriate arrangement of branches and leaves.

  • Storage of nutrients and water.

  • Provide for the lifelong growth of the plant.

  • It facilitates the production of new cells and tissues.

  • Stems are composed of morphological structures- nodes, internodes, and axillary buds.


Roots are the major vegetative parts of the plants that are negatively geotropic. Roots develop from the radicals of the embryo.

Functions of Roots

  • Absorption of water

  • Storage of nutrients

  • Providing anchorage to the plants

  • Facilitating vegetative propagation

  • Roots are of various types like tap root, adventitious roots, lateral roots, fibrous roots, etc.

Let us look at the major differences between stem and roots.

Differences Between Stem and Root



Stems are the parts of plants that bear branches, leaves, and fruits.

Roots are the underground parts of plants that bear root hairs.

Their primary function is to supply minerals, water, and food to all plant parts.

Roots provide anchorage to the plant, it facilitates the absorption of water and minerals from the soil.

Stems are positively phototropic, i.e., they have an affinity towards light and grow in its direction.

Roots are negatively phototropic, i.e., roots grow away from light.

Stems of the plants bear plant structures- flowers, and buds.

Roots bear root hairs and buds.

Stems do not have a shoot tip. Instead, they possess a terminal bud.

Roots have a root cap at the tip of the root.

Stems are multicellular.

Root hairs are unicellular.

Green in color particularly at younger stages.

Typically white in younger stages, and turns darker or brown as it grows.

Stems have nodes and internodes.

Nodes and internodes are not found in roots.

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.

The branches of the stem have special functions to prevent water loss from the surface of the stem.

Root hairs primarily function to absorb water and minerals from the soil.

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

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

Epidermal cells in stems are cutinized.

Epidermal cells in roots are not cutinized.

The function of the epidermis of stems is to provide protection.

The function of the epidermis of the root is to provide support to the plants and absorb nutrients and water from the soil.

The epidermis of the young stem shows the presence of stomata.

Stomata are not present in roots.

The cortex of the stems is narrow and differentiated into outer, middle, and inner compartments.

Roots have a broad and undifferentiated cortex.

Chlorenchyma in stems is seen in outer cortical cells.

Chlorenchyma is not found in roots.

The pericycle is multilayered and plays an important role in secondary thickening.

Roots have a uninuclear pericycle which is also involved in secondary thickening.

Xylem is Endarch, so the protoxylem is directed towards the center in case of stems with metaxylem elements present at the periphery.

Xylem is exarch in the case of roots, as protoxylem is directed to the periphery and metaxylem present at the center.

Xylem and phloem fibers are present in stems.

Xylem and phloem fibers are not present in roots.

Vascular bundles of stems are conjoint and collateral.

Vascular tissues in roots are arranged radially.

Secondary vascular growth in stems occurs by cambium by both intrafascicular and interfascicular.

If secondary vascular growth takes place, it emerges from conjunctive parenchyma and pericycle.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What is the difference between Xylem of Stems and that of Roots?

Ans: Xylem in stems is endarch which means the protoxylem is directed towards the center in case of stems with metaxylem elements present at the periphery. On the other hand, xylem in roots is directed to the periphery, and metaxylem is present at the center, so it is exarch.

Q2. What is the one basic difference between Stems and Roots?

Ans: The basic difference between stems and roots is that the stems are positively phototropic and grow above the ground to bear leaves, branches, and apical buds. However, roots are negatively phototropic and grow away from light, towards the ground and bear root hairs and buds.