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From reading accessible information about tubers and taproots I recognize that the main differences between tubers and taproots (as well as a fibrous root system) are:

  • Shape
  • Different nutrient synthesis: Tubers contain less complex sugars than taproots

A possible third difference

As one who prefer a vegan diet in general I read a lot about B12; in many places (for example) Wikipedia, something like this was written:

In the past, humans got Vitamin B12 from eating the roots of "short plants" that absorbed the vitamin from bacteria which produced it near to their roots.

This led me to assume that either tubers or taproots (as well as a fibrous root system) have Vitamin B12 absorption by dedicated receptors and if one has it and the other doesn't here is yet another difference.
An interesting side note: Tubers are always under soil while roots in general, aren't necessarily; as with aerial roots.

My question

What are the main differences between tubers and taproots?

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  • $\begingroup$ Please edit your question to clarify what type of tuber you are interested in since the answer will vary significantly for stem tubers (e.g. potatoes) vs. root tubers (e.g. sweet potatoes). Also note that different sources will use "tuber" differently — in my experience it was used exclusive for underground shoots that served as storage organs. It would also make your questions more useful if you would add in references and links for your information sources. $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 21 '19 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ @tyersome I didn't no about the difference; I thought there is only one general type of tubers. I don't have time now to deepen in the difference between the two kinds --- if it instills closing the question; so be it. $\endgroup$ – user22497 Dec 21 '19 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think you have to worry about it being closed, so take your time. Depending on what you decide your question is I may even be able to give you an answer. 😊 $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 21 '19 at 5:24
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    $\begingroup$ When you do get around to editing your question, remember that even structurally related (e.g. stem) tubers can be found in multiple different plant families. This suggests that even structurally related tubers won't necessarily have much in common other than their homology (e.g. being derived from stems). That means that if you want a biochemical answer your question may need to be narrowed down to a comparison within in a specific plant family to be answerable ... $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 21 '19 at 5:34
  • $\begingroup$ @tyersome please review the "a possible third difference chapter"; I think what I wrote is enough to understand what is my problem in understanding the difference. $\endgroup$ – user22497 Dec 27 '19 at 1:23
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They are actually completely different plant parts: a taproot is the central root of a taproot-system plant while a tuber is an engorged modified underground stem called a rhizome.

  • A morphological and functional difference between rhizomes and roots are that rhizomes (being modified stems) have nodes, while roots never do.

    • Note: a node = the location on a plant stem where buds (leaves, flowers, stem branches) initiate

According to "Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary" (Harris & Harris, 2001)1:

Taproot. The main root axis from which smaller root branches arise; a root system with a main root axis and smaller branches...Figure 1273

  • Root. The portion of the plant axis lacking nodes and leaves and usually found below ground.

Compared to...

Tuber. The thickened portion of a rhizome bearing nodes and buds; underground stem modified for food storage. Figure 1366

  • Rhizome. A horizontal underground stem. Figure 1052

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See here for a photo of a potato plant showing a young tuber and an older tuber growing on the end of a rhizome.

According to here:

Tubers-are swollen regions of stems that store food for subsequent growth. The potato is an example. It is a stem because it has many nodes called eyes with spaces between eyes known as internodes. Potato tubers develop at the end of swollen underground stem structures, rhizomes.

Eyes of potatoes are really axillary buds which contain several small buds at each site. These buds can expand to form shoots which grow on to make whole plants.

You can explore histologic, anatomic, and physiologic differences of stems vs roots more generally to understand broader differences between the two plant parts.

  • Examples:

    • Proença & Sajo (2008)2 discuss root and rhizome anatomy in select bromeliads.

    • Figure 1 from Hernán et al. (2014) shows how the vascular and various tissue layers can differ quite a bit between roots and rhizomes on the same plant.

Notes:

  • Some structures characteristics of roots (e.g., casparian strips) can also occur in rhizomes. (E.g., see Lersten 19974.

  • Unlike potatoes (which are tubers), sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are actually a modified root called tuberous roots


Works Cited:

1 Harris, J.G. and Harris, M.W., 1994. Plant identification terminology: an illustrated glossary (No. QK9 H37 2001). Utah: Spring Lake Publishing.

2 Proença, S.L. and Sajo, M.D.G., 2008. Rhizome and root anatomy of 14 species of Bromeliaceae. Rodriguésia, 59(1), pp.113-128.

3 Hernán, G., Varela, B.G., Fortunato, R.H. and Wagner, M.L., 2014. Pharmacobotany of two Valeriana species (Valerianaceae) of Argentinian Patagonia known as “Ñancolahuen”. Lat Am J Pharm, 33(6), pp.891-6.

4 Lersten, N.R., 1997. Occurrence of endodermis with a casparian strip in stem and leaf. The Botanical Review, 63(3), pp.265-272.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hello, I admit that I tried to read the answer twice but in both cases felt a bit confused; I suggest, and of course, you are welcome to reject the suggestion (no pun will be taken) to review the answer and contemplate how to maybe simplify it or ordering it a bit more so it will be more accessible for non biologists like myself. $\endgroup$ – user22497 Jan 27 at 9:18

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