In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant body that typically lies below the surface of the soil. But, this is not always the case, since a root can also be aerial (that is, growing above the ground) or aerating (that is, growing up above the ground or especially above water). On the other hand, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either (see rhizome). So, it is better to define root as a part of a plant body that bears no leaves, and therefore also lacks nodes. There are also important internal structural differences between stems and roots. The two major functions of roots are 1.) absorption of water and inorganic nutrients and 2.) anchoring the plant body to the ground. Roots also function in cytokinin synthesis, which supplies some of the shoot's needs. They often function in storage of food. The roots of most vascular plant species enter into symbiosis with certain fungi to form mycorrhizas, and a large range of other organisms including bacteria also closely associate with roots.
At the tip of every growing root is a conical covering of tissue called the root cap, which consists of undifferentiated soft tissue (parenchyma) with unthickened walls covering the apical meristem. The root cap provides mechanical protection to the meristem as the root advances through the soil. As the root cap cells are worn away they are continually replaced by new cells generated by cell division within the meristem. The root cap is also involved in the production of mucigel, a sticky mucilage that coats the new formed cells. These cells contain statoliths, starch grains that move in response to gravity and thus control root orientation.
A true root system consists of a primary root and secondary roots (or lateral roots).
The primary root originates in the radicle of the seedling. It is the first part of the root to be originated. During its growth it rebranches to form the lateral roots. It usually grows downwards. Generally, two categories are recognized:
- the taproot system: the primary root is prominent and has a single, dominant axis; there are fibrous secondary roots running outward. Usually allows for deeper roots capable of reaching low water tables. Most common in dicots. The main function of the taproot is to store food.
- the diffuse root system: the primary root is not dominant; the whole root system is fibrous and branches in all directions. Most common in monocots. The main function of the fibrous root is to anchor the plant.
Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)