The difference between rhizomes and roots

The difference between rhizomes and roots is fairly obvious when it comes to looking at the plant. Roots grow below the ground while rhizomes grow above the ground.

While rhizomes and roots can be found underground, rhizomes typically are long, thin stems that stem from their node roots. Many common plants possess rhizomes as the main stem, such as Calcarea, ginger, bamboo, and basil.

Other popular plants, such as wheat and rye, contain rhizomes but are rarely seen underground.

Ferns, on the other hand, do not have rhizomes because they grow in a different way. Ferns are actually underground runners that have their rhizomes at the base of a leaf. This makes them different from most other plants with rhizomes.

Ferns are found all over the world and in many different types. Some types are rarely seen underground because they grow in dense shade areas.

Rhizomes grow deep and long underground and become almost impossible to get rid of
Rhizomes grow deep and long underground and become almost impossible to get rid of
Weedol Rootkill Plus Weedkiller Spray Gun, Kills Weeds PLUS Roots!
  • Weedol Rootkiller Plus
  • 1 Litre Spray Gun
  • Kills the Roots so the Weeds don't come back!
  • Acts Fast!!
  • Degrades in soil to allow re-planting

What are rhizomes?

The word rhizome comes from a Greek word that means “to root.” Rhizomes are underground horizontal stems that develop horizontally. It’s an alteration to the stem. From its nodes, it sends forth roots and stems.

The nodes are completely capable of sprouting a new plant, assisting in the plant’s vegetative proliferation. In other circumstances, such as with ginger and bamboo, the rhizome might be the plant’s primary stem.

Rhizomes serve as the plant’s initial stem when they are present. They develop underground, where they are not exposed to light. Rhizomes are sometimes known as root stalks or creepy rootstalk.

Nodes, internodes, leaves, and buds are the different parts of rhizomes. When there is enough food stored in the nodes, they are capable of developing a new plant.

The primary function of rhizomes is to store food (carbohydrates, proteins, and other nutrients), which results in a dense structure. Rhizomes also aid in the reproduction of the plant by assisting in the growth of new plants from their nodes. Some rhizomes can also be seen growing on the ground (e.g. ferns and irises). Ginger, poison oak, bamboo, asparagus, cast iron plants, and Calathes are all examples of rhizomes.

What are roots?

The plant’s roots anchor it to the earth and keep it in place. Their major job is to pull water and nutrients from the ground for the plant. They also aid in food storage and soil erosion prevention.

Roots on the other hand run along the surface of a plant. The reason for this difference between roots and rhizomes is that roots need to penetrate the ground in order to absorb water and nutrients. They do not have to go very deep to do this.

Therefore, roots cannot grow at an angle or form deep, spiralling vases as the rhizomes can.

The Taproot system and the Fibrous root system are the two types of roots. The principal root, also known as the taproot, grows vertically in the tap root system, and many smaller secondary roots sprout from it.

The roots of the fibrous root system are not differentiated, instead of growing in multiple directions from a single location. For the plant, both roots perform the same purpose.

The root tip is protected by a root cap. The root tip promotes the growth of new cells and assists the root in digging deeper into the ground. The mobility of the root is further aided by the root cap.

The epidermis refers to the rest of the root, which is thickly covered in cells. This is where the root hairs and lesser hairs grow.

The root hair’s job is to absorb water and minerals from the soil and carry them to the plant’s upper portions. Roots, like rhizomes, can also be utilised to store food. Sweet potato is one such example.

Some plants’ roots are also altered. Carrot, radish, turnip, beetroot, and parsnips are examples of roots that are edible.

Many people think that plants with long, curved stem partly roots, while others think that the stems are simply roots. However, both stem types perform the same functions in plants. Stems grow to allow the plant to absorb water and nutrients.

The rhizomes, however, have only one stem and grow sideways along the surface of the soil, feeding the plant as they float by. This type of plant has very few, if any, aerial roots.

The root system of pine trees on the banks of landslides
The root system of pine trees on the banks of landslides

Main differences between rhizomes and roots

The underground section of a plant is commonly referred to as its “roots,” however this isn’t always the case. Depending on the sort of plant and the section you’re looking at, different components of the plant can grow underground.

The rhizome is a common underground plant element that should not be confused with a root.

The list below outlines the main differences:

  • Rhizomes are underground extensions of stems that develop horizontally, whereas roots are the primary component of a plant’s root system.
  • Rhizomes aid in the storage of food and plant vegetative proliferation.
  • Roots assist in the storage of food, the absorption of food, water, and other nutrients, soil erosion prevention, and the anchoring of plants to the ground.
  • The roots can grow either horizontally or vertically, while the rhizomes grow horizontally.
  • The rhizome has nodes, internodes, buds, and leaves, whereas the root does not.
  • Rhizomes are uncommon, but every plant has a root.
  • The rhizome aids in plant vegetative propagation, whereas the roots do not aid in plant reproduction.

What conditions do they grow in?

Both roots and rhizomes grow in soil that is slightly acidic in nature. The soil must be slightly alkaline in order for the rhizomes to grow horizontally. On the other hand, soil that is too acidic will discourage roots and rhizomes from growing altogether.

In either case, the plant’s roots will simply follow the direction of the groundwater, which may flow downhill or upward in a muddy environment. Underground grasses and even underground gardens are based upon rhizomes and roots.

The destroyed and bound roots or rhizomes of trees closeup for an abstract and natural vegetable background
The destroyed and bound roots or rhizomes of trees closeup for an abstract and natural vegetable background

Growing characteristics

Plants with underground stems, such as the popular sweet potato, actually derive their roots from underground, while they appear to be growing in a clump. This is due to the fact that the sweet potato plant has a rhizome-like growth that extends upward from the base of its flowering shoots.

When it grows up, the rhizome-like stem grows horizontally and extends upward into the uppermost reaches of the soil, while the roots take up water and nutrients while they flourish. Sweet potatoes derive their name from the Latin “sweet potato,” which means “good soil.”

Some more primitive plants, such as the pea, have no visible roots. However, these plants derive their roots from underground stems. This is so because their very existence is dependent upon the survival of their roots.

Just as our roots depend on the survival of our body, our roots depend on the survival of the soil they grow up in. Plants such as the pea are completely dependent upon this.

How sunlight affects growth

Plants have been growing for millions of years since the dawn of prehistoric times. Most plants do not require sunlight to thrive, but some, such as the alpine and sub-alpine species, need as much as 6 hours of direct sunlight each day in order to grow properly.

Although most plants cannot tolerate the full spectrum of light, some types of plants, such as the alpine, have very unique growth requirements that can be fulfilled through the use of special lighting systems called photoperiods, or light intensification.

Under normal conditions, light provides plant nourishment, while the energy consumed by roots is spent trying to hold water in the form of micro-organisms, sugars, and other nutrients. Both roots and stems require space to grow, therefore, the larger the plant grows, the more space it needs.

In Conclusion

There are many differences between rhizomes and roots. Rhizome plants have horizontal stems that grow in a spreading pattern, while root plants tend to be more vertical with their shoots growing straight up from the ground.

The branching of the stem is also different for these two types of plant life; whereas rhizomes can branch off on any side as it grows, roots typically only branch downwards or sideways.

In addition, one way you may know if you’re looking at an underground root system versus a surface-level rhizome is by observing how large the tissue mass is above ground–roots will often have thicker tissues near them than what’s found around the base of a typical rhizome plant.

Weedol Rootkill Plus Weedkiller Spray Gun, Kills Weeds PLUS Roots!
  • Weedol Rootkiller Plus
  • 1 Litre Spray Gun
  • Kills the Roots so the Weeds don't come back!
  • Acts Fast!!
  • Degrades in soil to allow re-planting

Want to know more about how to remove Japanese Knotweed?

Knotweed Removal aims to provide the most up to date information, help and advice for YOU to make informed decisions. If you are unsure or uncertain on how to proceed, please reach out to us and we will gladly come back and advise you as best we can.

Governmental advice can be found here and the UK law covering the removal of Japanese Knotweed as stated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 can be found here.

The best means to contact us is via our email –

Do not forget we have a library of blogs covering many areas relevant to Japanese Knotweed, our free downloadable How-to Guides and Product Reviews on the latest methods being employed to eradicate or remove Japanese Knotweed.

Knotweed Removal, UK

Similar Posts