What Are Fibrous Roots?

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Fibrous root systems, also called diffuse, fasciculate, or adventitious root systems, are root structures characterized by numerous equally sized roots extending in a complex network from the base of the plant. The fibrous root system exhibits major difference from a taproot system in terms of its development, structure and survival advantages.

Formation and Structure

  • As the seed of a plant germinates, it forms a radicle -- an elongated growth that serves as the plant's first root. This radicle develops into the primary root, from which either a taproot or fibrous root system will develop. The development of the primary root in fibrous root system stops early in the development of the plant. Other roots that develop from the base of the stem are just as large and productive as the primary root. Another important feature of the fibrous root structure is that adventitious roots are capable of growing not only from the roots of the plant but also from other organs such as the stem.

Fibrous Versus Taproot Systems

  • The other major type of root system is known as a taproot. In these plants, the primary root will continue to develop extensively and will be much larger and more dominant than the network of other branching roots. As a result of this taproot structure, plants can reach further down to retrieve underground water and are more difficult to pull from the ground. A taproot system usually has dramatically fewer roots than a fibrous root system, which can have as many as 14 million separate roots in some plants.

Benefits of Fibrous Roots

  • Like all root systems, fibrous roots have the primary functions of anchoring the plant to the ground, absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. One benefit of a fibrous root system over a taproot is that the complex network of numerous, equally sized roots holds the soil in place even during strong rains. For this reason, plants with fibrous root systems are preferred for fighting erosion.

Plants with Fibrous Root Systems

  • The plants that exhibit a fibrous root system include ferns and monocotyledonous plants, also known as monocots. Monocots are distinguished from dicots, the other main type of flowering plants, by the development of a single cotyledon -- a leaf-like growth from the embryo which absorbs nutrients contained within the seed. Examples of plants with fibrous root systems include flowering plants, like marigolds and daffodils, grains and palm trees.

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