Last year's Chelsea Flower Show had an exhibit demonstrating the extensive nature of tree roots with a large tree suspended in mid air with its roots exposed and cleaned. Equally, every time their is a major storm, trees are uprooted and the immense size of their root plates exposed for the first time.
Sometimes roots can be visible and ornamental or just plain curious. The aerial roots of banyan trees are well know but less so the pretty pink roots of Metrosideros trees, seen in San Francisco. Old beech and yew trees will show immense roots buttresses and surface roots of enormous proportions. Of course the roots that actually do the hard work absorbing water and nutrients are the tiny root hairs at the end of all roots. These feed into the larger roots which in turn connect with the rest of the plant via its stem or trunk.
|Buttress roots of an ancient beech|
|Gnarled roots on a nenerable yew|
|Curious aerial roots on sweet corn|
|Pneumatophores - breathing roots on swamp cypress that allow the roots to absorb air when growing in waterlogged conditions - sort of botanical snorkel!|
Amazingly shoots of plants have the ability to produce new roots when in contact with the soil or moisture and this is of course the basis of propagation by cuttings or layering.
Roots are of course also valuable as food crops with everything from the humble sugar beet through to carrots, parsnips, beet and all the rest. And of course there are those patient individuals who can grow these simple vegetables into amazing, prize-winning show specimens. Sadly roots are not always so popular and with the wrong tree next to a building, serious subsidence can occur or blocked drains. Anyway spare a thought for the humble and often hidden root!