Monday, 4 February 2019

April - Roots



Early in the spring in early April in much of the United States we see the first hits of new growth in our city lots. These ting  sprigs of green bring a thrill of expectation, with their promise that winter is over and a new season is awakening. But they are also delightful in themselves  crisp and delicate, pale and sharp in color, beautiful in shape. The actually sparkle against the soot-blackened earth.

As these baby plants push through the soil, they tell us a great deal about the underground parts from which the rise. Many  the tiniest and most delicate  are new sprouts from seeds that have lain dormant in the earth all winter. Stirred by warmer temperatures and longer days, the seeds have germinated and started to grow. The put out, first, a pair to very small seed leaves, then larger leaves of a different shape, and even actuallv flowers and seeds. The plants called annuals come up like this each year, grow, bloom, make new seeds, and die  all
in a single season. It is hard to believe that some of these tiny seedlings will, by fall, have grown taller than our heads.

However, not all the new green shoots we see are so small and delicate. Man grow in started little spikes which show that they are coming up tree a well-established root. These are the perennials, with roots that live for many years, sending up every summer a new stalk to leaves and flowers and seeds, which usually dies back in the winter.

And in amon the pale new shoots or annuals and perennials, we will also ting handsome low-lm rosettes to darker, well formed leaves. These belong to biennials, which in their first summer produced a leafy plant and will bloom in their second growing season. The flat rosettes to some biennials stay green all winter, hugging the earth for warmth and sometimes looking slightly battered by spring. But with the first warm weather, the old leaves lift their tips to the sun and new leaves appear, soon to be followed by a flower stalk. After the flowers have bloomed and formed their seeds, the whole plant will die.

If we pull up any of these different kinds of plants, we will find rate variety in their underground parts. The annuals very often have a mass of delicate, threadlike roots. These roots anchor the plant world in the earth, and their fine hairs reach out and absorb water tree the soil.

This is the first step in a plant s processes of living and growing. In the ground, water forms a film around each tiny soil particle and dissolves some of the minerals m it. Minute root airs soak up the water, and the network of small roots carries the solution to the plant stems, which in turn carry it to the leaves. There it will be used in the chemical process that many features food for the plant.


Perennials and biennials, of course, also have need of these small rootlets and root hairs. In addition, they need a storage place for food to last through the winter and nourish spring
growth before there are leaves to manufacture new food. Most of them have a large main root, or taproot, from which the smaller rootlets branch out. In some perennials which live for a long time and grow bigger and bigger each year, these taproots are enormous, and the hold so much nourishment that the send the spring plants up at a surprising rate. The roots of poke weed are so long and thick that the plant which grows from them in a single summer is as large as a good-sized shrub. Alfalfa roots often reach down 25 feet and have been discovered as deep as 130 feet. Even the fibrous roots of short-lived annuals can grow to amazing length in their search for water. A single four-month-old rye plant (a kind of grass) was found to have roots which, with their root hairs, totaled over 380 miles in length. They had an absorbing surface fifty times greater than that of the same plant's stem and leaves.

So it is not always easy to pull up a plant for close inspection. The roots of some weeds form a tangle of underground runners, spreading in all directions and sending up new plants all along their length. Other runners are not roots at all, but stems that travel under the ground or on its surface, rooting and sprouting at the leaf nodes.

ll these roots may be more useful than beautiful, but they are very important in the life of a plant.

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