What is a Root?

By Amanda Moses

The Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC) is filled with lush grass, beautiful pear trees, rose bushes, and an assortment of flowers and herbs.  Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman waters and trims everything that grows in the UGC, and although they are different species of plants, the one thing they have in common are roots.

During Roytman’s latest virtual lesson with the Spring Creek After School Program, she showcased a video on the various types of roots found in a garden. “What is a root,” she asked the class.  While the children noted that roots grow underneath the soil, Roytman highlighted that they are an integral plant organ. Aside from the leaves absorbing sunlight from photosynthesis, water and other nutrients are taken in by the roots. Every single plant has them, whether they are the tallest trees or the tiniest flowers.

To help further exhibit its importance, Roytman showed the students carrot roots, which are attached to the pointed base of the vegetable, since it grows below ground. Similarly, beets and turnips also grow below ground, and their roots are attached to the base of the vegetable, while the stem poles are above the ground, sprouting green leaves. This is an example of a tap root.

“There are two types of roots,” Roytman said, “Fibrous and tap.”  A tap root has one main root that grows vertically, such as a carrot or a beet. Lettuce on the other hand, is an example of fibrous system because it has multiple thin, branching roots growing from a stem.

Nasturtium and wildflowers are another example of fibrous roots their stems are attached to two branching roots beneath the soil. Normally, when we go to the grocery store, the roots are removed from vegetables, so that’s why they look different from when they are harvested at the UGC. 

Once the lesson culminated, Roytman asked the class what they enjoyed most about the class. “I liked seeing the lettuce root, since I’ve never really seen the roots. I also liked learning about the two different types of roots, tap and fibrous,” Ms. Alicia said.

Jeremiah shared that he liked seeing the red beets, which looked like tiny apples but were in fact a tap root vegetable.

Screenshots by Amanda Moses