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Root Cap: Function & Definition

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  • 0:05 Parts of a Root System
  • 0:52 Root Growth
  • 1:21 Three Zones
  • 2:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

In this lesson, you will learn about root caps, which provide protection to root tips. Roots are very complex structures with a variety of functions, and the root cap is a small but integral part of the overall root system.

Parts of a Root System

Have you ever eaten a carrot, sweet potato, or ginger? You may not have known it at the time, but what you ate was actually the root of a plant. These roots are very tasty because they have stored much of the sugar and nutrients the plant needs to survive. Roots also provide structural support and stability for the plant by growing deep into the ground.

While they may look like a simple structure, roots are actually very complex. All of the parts of a root make up the root system. The root system is comprised of the main root (or roots); the root hairs, which are very small but numerous structures that absorb water and nutrients from the ground; the lateral roots, which are any roots that branch off of the main root; and the root cap, which provides protection for the growing part of the root.

root cap

Root Growth

All plants experience primary growth, which is the lengthening of both the stem and the roots. Primary growth occurs because of cell division and specialization in apical meristems. Apical meristems are found in both root tips and stem buds, and the root cap helps protect the root apical meristem. The root cap is a shaped like a thimble and acts like a hard hat for the root tip. Directly behind it is where root growth actually occurs.

Three Zones

There are three zones of cells in the root that correspond with different stages of primary growth. Right behind the root tip is the zone of cell division, which includes the root apical meristem. This is where new cells are produced, including those that make up the root cap.

Moving upward and away from the root tip we find the zone of elongation. In this zone, cells elongate, sometimes more than ten times their original length. This elongation of cells is what pushes the root tip deep into the ground, providing support for the plant. It is important to note that when these cells elongate they only get longer and not wider. They don't expand outward in all directions.

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