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Difference Between Tracheids and Vessels

Last updated date: 17th Apr 2024
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An Introduction to Tracheids and Vessels

Imagine yourself wandering through a lush forest, surrounded by towering trees. Have you ever stopped to ponder how these magnificent plants can transport water from their roots to their leaves, hundreds of feet above the ground? The secret lies within the intricate network of xylem tissue, which contains two remarkable types of cells: tracheids and vessels. These cellular components form the plumbing system of plants, ensuring the efficient and vital flow of water and minerals throughout their entire structure 

In the fascinating realm of plant anatomy, tracheids and vessels play pivotal roles in the process known as xylem transport. They serve as conduits, tirelessly ferrying water and nutrients upwards against gravity, providing life-sustaining resources to every part of the plant. Although both tracheids and vessels contribute to this essential task, they possess distinctive characteristics that set them apart from one another. In this article we will look at the Tracheids and Vessels difference. First lets explain Tracheids and Vessels

What is Tracheids and Vessels?

Tracheids: Tracheids are elongated, tube-like cells found in the xylem of vascular plants. They are responsible for the vertical transport of water and minerals within the plant. Tracheids have tapered ends and thick secondary cell walls with pits that allow for water movement.

Vessels: Vessels, also known as vessel elements, are another type of cell found in the xylem tissue. They are larger and wider than tracheids and have open-ended tubes for efficient water conduction. Vessels are stacked end-to-end, forming long continuous channels for water transport.

Let's understand it by going through their facts and how they are important.

Interesting Facts About Tracheids and Vessels!!


  • Tracheids are not only responsible for water conduction but also provide structural support to plants. Their elongated shape and thick secondary cell walls contribute to the overall strength and stability of the plant's vascular system.

  • In some plants, such as conifers, tracheids are the primary water-conducting cells. These plants rely exclusively on tracheids for transporting water and minerals throughout their structure. 

  • Tracheids have evolved remarkable adaptability to varying environmental conditions. In certain plants, such as desert cacti, tracheids can undergo structural modifications to prevent excessive water loss, helping the plant survive in arid environments


  • Vessels are a more advanced form of water-conducting cells found primarily in angiosperms, flowering plants. The emergence of vessels in the plant kingdom is considered a significant evolutionary milestone.

  • The presence of vessels allows angiosperms to achieve remarkable heights. These plants have evolved to grow taller and more complex, and the efficient water transport provided by vessels enables them to sustain their extensive structures.

  • The arrangement of vessels within the xylem tissue can vary between different plant species. Some plants have solitary vessels, while others possess vessel networks or vessel clusters, each contributing to their specific water transport requirements.

Difference Between Tracheids and Vessels




Elongated cells with tapered ends

Wider and shorter cells with open-ended tubes

Thick secondary cell walls with pits

Lack of secondary cell walls in most angiosperms

Smaller in diameter than vessels

Larger in diameter than tracheids

Present in both gymnosperms and angiosperms

Primarily found in angiosperms

Provide water conduction and structural support

Specialising efficientent water transport

Characteristics of Tracheids and Vessels


  • Tracheids are typically longer compared to vessels. Their elongated shape allows for greater surface area contact with adjacent cells, facilitating efficient water and mineral transport.

  • The presence of secondary cell walls in tracheids provides structural strength and rigidity, contributing to the overall support of the plant. These walls are often reinforced with lignin, a complex polymer that enhances their durability and resistance to decay.

  • Tracheids are more resistant to embolisms, which are blockages in the water-conducting system. Their narrower diameter and presence of pits allow for more controlled water flow and a reduced risk of air bubbles disrupting the water column.


  • Vessels are typically wider and shorter than tracheids, enabling them to conduct larger volumes of water at a faster rate. Their wider diameter and open-ended structure provide a pathway for efficient water movement with reduced resistance.

  • Unlike tracheids, vessels lack secondary cell walls in most angiosperms. This feature, known as vessel element perforation plates, allows for unimpeded water flow between adjacent vessels, further enhancing their transport capacity.

  • Vessels are more susceptible to embolisms compared to tracheids due to their wider lumens. However, some plants have evolved mechanisms, such as specialised bordered pits or pit membranes, to prevent embolisms and maintain the integrity of the water-conducting system.


In summary, both tracheids and vessels are important components of the xylem tissue responsible for transporting water in plants. Tracheids are elongated cells with tapered ends and thick secondary cell walls, while vessels are wider, shorter cells with open-ended tubes. Tracheids are found in both gymnosperms and angiosperms, providing both water conduction and structural support. Vessels, primarily found in angiosperms, have evolved for efficient water transport in taller and more complex plants. Tracheids and Vessels' differences vary and here we tried to explain them in detail.

FAQs on Difference Between Tracheids and Vessels

1. Can Tracheids and Vessels be Found in the Same Plant?

Yes, tracheids and vessels can be found in the same plant, particularly in angiosperms. The xylem tissue of angiosperms often contains both tracheids and vessels, with vessels being the more specialised water-conducting cells. Tracheids may be present in lower portions of the plant or in specialised regions where additional structural support is needed.

2. What is the Significance of Pits in Tracheids?

Pits in tracheids play a crucial role in facilitating water movement within the xylem tissue. These pits are small areas of the secondary cell wall that lack lignification, creating thin areas that allow for water exchange between adjacent cells. The presence of pits enables lateral movement of water and minerals, ensuring effective distribution throughout the plant.

3. How do Vessels Achieve Efficient Water Transport?

Vessels are specifically adapted to enhance water transport efficiency in plants. Their wider diameter and open-ended tube-like structure minimise resistance to water flow, enabling rapid and continuous movement of water through the plant. Additionally, vessels in most angiosperms lack secondary cell walls, further facilitating unimpeded water conduction. This evolutionary adaptation allows vessels to efficiently supply water to taller and more complex plant structures.