Visit http://koning.ecsu.ctstateu.edu/plant_physiology/roots. html in chapter 7 of the Online Learning Center at www.mhhe.com/botany for additional information on the structure and function of roots. The OLC offers key hyperlinks like this one to help with your assignments.
Most people don't think about roots of plants because roots are "out of sight, out of mind." Hundreds of years ago, however, people relied on plants as their most important source of medicines, and roots were a main constituent of their herbal concoctions. Some of the roots used long ago have been found to have medicinal uses today. Also hundreds of years ago, people believed the mass of a plant came from the soil absorbed by the plant's roots. Although this belief was disproved, plants do absorb important materials from the soil—water and minerals that are used as building blocks for plants and, eventually, for animals in a community. Roots keep soil from eroding and interact with thousands of different species of organisms that dwell in the ground. So, next time you look at a plant, think about the parts you don't see, for they play important roles in the ecosystem and in the lives of plants and animals.
In this chapter, you learn about the structure of roots and about some of the major functions of typical roots, including the absorption of water and minerals. You are introduced to the study of plant mineral nutrition, which includes the kinds and uses of minerals required by plants. Minerals are chemical building blocks; minerals are added to sugar molecules and to molecules made from sugars to construct the bodies of plants. In some environments, the major functions of roots are something other than absorption of water and minerals; thus, in this chapter, you learn about adaptations of roots to different environments, some special functions of roots, and how these functions might have evolved.
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