Xylem & Phloem Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Definition
  • 1:02 Phloem
  • 2:10 Xylem
  • 3:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debra Patuto

Debra has taught at elementary levels and has an M.ed with certification in elementary education and special education

This lesson will teach you about the differences between phloem and xylem within plants and trees. Each has an equally important and very special job to do. Let's take a closer look.

Definition

When your body is thirsty and hungry, what do you do? You drink and eat! All plants need to be able to drink and eat, too. Plants and trees might not have mouths, but they do have special ways that they can get their nutrients. Xylem and phloem are the names for the special pipe-like system that allows water and food to get delivered to all parts of a plant.

Cross section of celery
cross section of celery plant

A cross section of celery shows the pipe-like system that can be found in plants. Notice the dark green and light green dots. Those are the tubes.

So how does this system work? The parts of the plants above the ground--the stem or trunk, leaves, and branches--absorb the sunlight during a process called photosynthesis (when the plant turns light into food in the form of sugar). Underground, the root system absorbs water and nutrients from the soil. The xylem and phloem help the above-ground parts work with the underground parts to digest the food and liquids.

Phloem

Phloem is tissue where substances can flow up and down to carry the food throughout the plant. Phloem carries the sugar that's made during photosynthesis from the leaves to storage areas--seeds and fruits. It also carries sugar to parts of the plants that are growing, such as the roots.

So where is phloem located? You can find this tissue, which is made of tube-like structures, close to the outside part of a stem or trunk (but not exposed to the outside elements).

In a tree, for example, it's usually just under the outside coat of bark. In plants, phloem tends to be close to the bottom of the leaves, which is why you often find insects feeding on the underside of leaves.

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