Taproot: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 What is a Taproot?
  • 0:21 Physical Description
  • 1:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brekke Peterson Munks
Ever wonder why a plant or a tree doesn't just fall over in the wind? It is because a plant has a taproot. This lesson will explore the function and importance of a taproot.

What Is a Taproot?

Have you ever thought to yourself: Why doesn't that plant just fall over? How is it so sturdy? What keeps it anchored? The answer to all of these questions is a specialized plant structure called the taproot. The taproot is defined as the central, largest root structure of a plant.

Typical structure of a taproot

Physical Description

The taproot of a plant grows straight down and is very thick. The further down in the soil it gets, it tapers to a much smaller diameter. Typically, this root is the main root that the others grow off of. It carries nutrients to the above-ground biomass. A prime example of a taproot is a carrot.

Example of taproots in carrots. Notice the varying thickness and length of the taproots

Taproots can be inches to meters deep depending on whether the plant is a field crop or a tree. Crop plants typically have taproots two to ten inches long and can exceed thirty inches in the case of alfalfa and corn. Tree roots can grow as far as sixty inches or longer. There are three classes of taproots:

  • Conical taproot, which is similar to the shape of a carrot and is thickest at the top and thin at the bottom
  • Fusiform taproot, which is similar to a radish shape and is tapered at the top and the bottom of the root and widest in the middle
  • Napiform taproot, which is similar to a turnip and is wide throughout but tapers quickly at the bottom of the root

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