In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. However, roots can also be aerial or aerating (growing up above the ground or especially above water). Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either (see rhizome). Therefore, the root is best defined as the non-leaf, non-nodes bearing parts of the plant's body. However, important internal structural differences between stems and roots exist.
The first root that comes from a plant is called the radicle. The four major functions of roots are 1) absorption of water and inorganic nutrients, 2) anchoring of the plant body to the ground, and supporting it, 3) storage of food and nutrients, 4) vegetative reproduction. In response to the concentration of nutrients, roots also synthesise cytokinin, which acts as a signal as to how fast the shoots can grow. Roots often function in storage of food and nutrients. The roots of most vascular plant species enter into symbiosis with certain fungi to form mycorrhizae, and a large range of other organisms including bacteria also closely associate with roots.
By Dean Hanley
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