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Tree Root Facts for Kids

Parts of a Tree: The Root System

People often think of trees as being tall and skinny, or maybe short if they’re still growing, with a few branches sticking out from the top. But did you know that tree is actually made up of many different parts? Each part has its own important job to do in order for the tree to grow and thrive. 

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at one of those parts: the root system! What does it do? How does it work? Tree Root Facts for Kids!

Why do trees need roots?

The roots of a tree help absorb water and essential minerals from the ground while also providing an anchor for the tree’s upper sections. Plus, if there is any extra food or water for the tree, its roots are in charge of storing it.

How do tree roots absorb water?

Though it may sound tricky, trees have an easy process to bring the water the roots absorb all the way up to their leaves (or pines!). Once the root has absorbed some water, the water then travels upwards through the xylem. The xylem is made of thick cells that create long and thin tubes. These tubes act like pipes for carrying water and nutrients up the tree. 

Why do tree roots grow downwards?

Though some trees grow roots above ground (called surface roots), most tree roots will grow downwards. And although trees do send some roots deep into the soil looking for extra water or to increase their stability, most tree root systems grow much more shallow! Usually, tree roots are only 12-24 inches underneath the ground. But there are exceptions! On average, the mighty oak tree’s root system is found 18-20 inches underground! 

Fun fact: Sometimes, the reason you’ll see exposed roots is because of soil erosion. Erosion is when the top layer of soil, called dirt, is either washed away by water or blown away by the wind.  

How does water go from the bottom of a tree to the top?

Transpiration is the name of the process that moves water from the roots to other parts of the tree. The sun’s heat pulls up nutrients and moisture from below to reach the tree’s leaves or pines where it can evaporate into the air around them. Transpiration also helps cool the trees by carrying heat away from them into the air above their heads where it can escape more easily than if it was trapped inside. It’s an important way that trees can regulate their own temperature. Transpiration also helps mineral nutrients needed for growth to move upwards as well! 

Do trees ever absorb water through their leaves?

Yes! During the dry seasons (usually in hot, summer weather), some trees will absorb water directly from the air through their leaves. This is the case with some trees in cloud forests. They can tolerate the dry season by absorbing water straight from the clouds. The trees and plants need this much-needed water to survive and transport it throughout their leaves, stems, and branches.  

So there you have it...

Trees need roots for a lot of reasons, but the main reason is to absorb water. Roots also give trees stability and anchor them in place so they don’t blow away or get knocked over by the wind. The root system helps pull nutrients from the ground and carry them up into the tree where they can be used as food. 

Pretty cool, right?

It may seem like there are tons of questions that we didn’t answer about how trees take care of themselves—and that’s because you are very attentive! If you want to learn more about forests and trees, just keep exploring Elapen’s blog posts, check out some of our cool DIY projects, or play some online games. Whatever you decide, get ready to go on an amazing educational adventure! 

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