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Q & A: Aerial plant roots

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
what are the only roots found above ground?
- Nicolle (age 13)
St. Isabella, novato CA USA
A:
Hi Nicolle,

Well, there are quite a few plants which grow roots above the ground. One of the more spectacular examples is the banyan tree, which has roots which grow down from the branches and take root in the soil. These are called "aerial roots" and sometimes called "prop roots". After a long time, the main tree trunk decays away, and the prop roots become new tree trunks of the various sections of the tree. The mangrove tree and some orchids also have aerial roots. Also some vines grow aerial roots like the trumpet vine and Ceriman.

Many trees will have exposed portions of their roots above ground even if the root is drawing water and nutrients from below. Walking down the street and having a look at the bases of trees usually will show a few roots partially exposed. The cypress tree, which grows in wetlands, usually has quite a few portions of roots exposed at its base. Many trees which grow by rivers will have some of their roots exposed by erosion of the soil.

Tom

(published on 10/22/2007)

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