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Long Distance Transport Of Water

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  • Last Updated : 16 Nov, 2022
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In plants, long-distance transport facilitates the movement of organic solutes between the xylem and phloem. This happens as a result of protracted exchange procedures. Mineral nutrition in plants depends heavily on the flow of nutrients between the xylem and phloem.

Active transport and diffusion are not the ideal methods for moving water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves and back again since diffusion is a slow process. Only short lengths, such as those from one cell to the next, or circumstances like this are allowed for the utilization of these procedures.

Long-distance transport systems had to be created in order to move substances at a faster and more effective rate. The xylem and phloem of vascular plants, therefore, evolved to facilitate and speed up material transport.

History: Theory of Transpiration Pull

Two botanists, Dixon and Joly, put out this notion in 1895. It was altered by Dixon in 1914. The most plausible idea for sap ascension in all plants, from the smallest herbs to the tallest trees, is this one. The cohesion-tension theory, as it is often known, is based on several fundamental laws of physical nature.

Long Distance Transportation in Plants

Symplast and Apoplast


Plants have two primary tissues: the xylem and phloem, which are used to transfer food (nutrients) and water. The removal of harmful substances from the leaf tissues and nourishment of the shoots both depend on long-distance transport.

The gradient in hydrostatic pressure, also known as root pressure, and the gradient in water potential are both responsible for the long-distance transfer of water in the xylem. The sieve tube cells of phloem, which are live cells, are used for long-distance transport. Water and other inorganic and organic solutes are transported over great distances from the roots to the shoots, where the stems are essential. The rate of volume movement in the xylem affects the transfer of the xylem to the phloem, which occurs in the stem.


Phloem and the transport tissue known as the xylem are found in vascular plants. Transporting water and nutrients from the roots to other plant components like shoots and leaves is the primary role of the xylem. Additionally, it supports the plant. Carl Nageli, a physicist, came up with the phrase “Xylem” in 1858.

Xylem Types

The two categories of xylem are primary and secondary, respectively. Despite serving the same purpose, they are divided into several categories according to how they grow.

  • Primary Xylem: It develops as a result of the plant’s first growth. It can be visible in the roots, flower buds, and tips of shoots. It aids in the development of plants and the extension of roots. Because it happens first throughout the growing season, it is referred to as the primary xylem.
  • Secondary Xylem: It develops as a result of the plant’s secondary growth. Its primary purpose is to enlarge the plant over time. After the initial growth occurs, it occurs each year. We can estimate the age of the trees thanks to the dark rings it leaves behind. We can see secondary xylem in two plant groups: conifers and angiosperms.

Xylem Cells

There are four different categories for xylem cells. Below is a description of them.

  • Tracheid: These are the main xylem cells. They are lengthy and have a tube-like construction with a tapered end. Pits perforate the majority of the tracheid’s cell wall. Spiral thickening, annular thickening, reticulate thickening, pitted thickening, and scalar form thickening is some of the different patterns of secondary thickening in the tracheid.
  • Vessels, which fall within the second type of xylem cells, are also known as trachea. They are made up of tiny, tube-shaped cells. They contain pieces or vessel components.
  • Xylem Fibers: These decomposing cells have lignified walls and a central lumen. It supports the plant mechanically and aids in moving water from the roots to various parts of the plant.

The only live cells in the xylem that contain starch and fat are called xylem parenchyma. Short-distance water movement can be aided by xylem parenchyma.


A transport tissue found in vascular plants is called phloem. It facilitates the movement of soluble organic molecules. Phloem, also referred to as the food-conducting tissue made up of living cells, transports organic compounds to the buds, roots, flowers, and fruits of plants using ATP and turgor pressure as sources of energy.

Phloem Cells

There are five different categories of phloem cells. Below is a description of them.

  • Sieve Elements: The phloem’s sieve elements are elongated, narrow cells that are connected to one another to form the sieve tube. The sieve components are thought to be extremely specialized plant cells. Once they reach adulthood, they are devoid of a nucleus and organelles like cytosol, ribosomes, and Golgi bodies. This will provide the cell with more room for translocation.
  • Sieve Plates: The phloem’s sieve plates are situated between the connections of the cells that make up the sieve or they may be modified as plasmodesmata. They help facilitate material exchange between the sieve element cells because of their size, and thinness.
  • Companion Cells: In angiosperms, a companion cell is always present with a sieve element cell. In gymnosperms, an albuminous cell or Strasburger cell takes the role of the companion cell. These cells have a nucleus that is surrounded by a lot of cytoplasms. Numerous ribosomes and mitochondria can be seen in the cytoplasm. These organelles enable the companion cells to carry out a variety of metabolic processes and other cellular operations. Through plasmodesmata, the companion cells and sieve cells are connected.
  • Phloem Parenchyma: The phloem parenchyma is made up of many cells that fill out the tissues of plants. The parenchyma is composed of cellulose-based walls that are thin and flexible. The storage of proteins, lipids, and starch serves its primary purpose. It also serves to store resins and tannins in some plants.
  • Phloem Sclerenchyma: The most significant tissue in the phloem is called the sclerenchyma of the phloem. It gives the plant sturdiness, strength, and support. There are sclereids and fibers in the phloem sclerenchyma. When they reach maturity, both have a secondary thick cell wall and are dead.

Bulk Flow or Mass Flow

Due to the pressure difference between the two areas, a mass flow or bulk flow system transports bulk materials from an area of production or adsorption to one of consumption or storage. A positive or negative hydrostatic gradient causes the mass to flow.

Phloem or Vein Loading and Additional Downward Transport

Vein loading is the process of moving sucrose or other photosynthetic products from the mesophyll cells of a leaf into the nearby sieve element of the phloem. For vein loading, apoplast and symplast paths have both been proposed:

Apoplast Path

  1. Water travels from the root hairs through the xylem’s intervening cells’ cell walls through the apoplast pathway.
  2. Due to the existence of Casparian strips, a band of impermeable matrices, this pathway originates in the cortex and terminates when it reaches the endodermis.
  3. Water and solutes can be transported across a tissue or organ more easily using the apoplast pathway.
  4. It is made up of inanimate objects.
  5. Water is moving in this area passively by diffusion.
  6. It doesn’t exhibit any resistance to the flow of the water.

Symplast Path

  1. Water travels across the cortex of plant cells, through the plasma membrane and plasmodesmata, and between the cytoplasm and vacuole by the symplast pathway.
  2. Compared to the apoplast pathway, this one is slower.
  3. It is made up of live components.
  4. Here, osmosis is the process by which water moves.
  5. It exhibits some water movement resistance.

Root Pressure

Root pressure is a force, or the hydrostatic pressure produced in the roots that aids in pushing fluids and other ions up into the plant’s vascular tissue, or Xylem, from the soil. Osmotic pressure in the stem cells drives this process. Prior to leaf formation in the spring, root pressure occurs more frequently while perspiration is accelerated.

Due to the extremely low evaporation rate, the impacts of root pressure can only be seen at night and in the early morning. The fundamental function of root pressure is to maintain any potential changes in sweating-related water molecule motions in the xylem.

Plant Root Pressure

It is known that water follows different ions from the soil when they are actively carried into the vascular tissues of the roots and that this tends to raise the pressure inside the xylem. Root pressure is the name given to this positive pressure. Water can be forced up to modest heights in the stem by the root pressure.

  • Both positive and negative root pressure exists.
  • Positive pressure is typically seen as guttation from leaves or bleeding from slashed stems.
  • Both woody roots and stems and fine roots may experience root pressure, which draws its energy from the water held in living cells, fibers, cell walls, and intercellular spaces.
  • Root pressure is the positive pressure that forms in a plant’s roots as a result of the active uptake of nutrients from the soil.
  • Active absorption, which depends on the active solute accumulation in xylem sap, is the cause of the development of root pressure.
  • Root pressure typically appears at night, when absorption is at its highest and transpiration is at its lowest.
  • Most transpiration occurs during the day. The guard cells and other epidermal cells become flaccid as a result of the water lost during transpiration. They in turn absorb water from the xylem.
  • In essence, this causes negative pressure, often referred to as tension, in the xylem vessels, which run through the stem from the surfaces of the leaves to the tips of the roots.

Factors Influencing 

  • Under various climatic, natural, unnatural, humanitarian, etc. settings, total root pressure is lessened, which causes the absorption speed to be a bit slower or is known to permanently cease it.
  • Mineral ions like calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, which encourage root surface absorption, are some of the mineral shortages that prevent the plant from actively absorbing. This will result in a mineral nutrition shortage in the plant. These result in reduced development and decreased root pressure.
  • When the environment significantly lowers the overall temperature, or when an internal or external imbalance lowers it, root pressure will be decreased. Another condition is both natural and unnatural, and it occurs when there are significant climatic weather fluctuations. To put it simply, the root pressure is reduced when there is less water present in locations that are experiencing a drought or no rain.
  • When oxygen is abundant in its elemental form, it serves as a catalyst for the ascent of liquids; when it is scarce, root pressure is lowered since there is less support from the media.


Plants have a physiological trait called guttation that allows them to get rid of extra water and keep the root pressure regular. For plants to grow properly physiologically and developmentally, water is necessary. Additionally, it serves as a barrier to plant growth. Water aids in maintaining turgor pressure in plant components, however when the body of the plant contains less or more water than usual, it can jeopardize the plant’s ability to function normally. In order to maintain a good balance between the nutrient and water content in the plant body, this characteristic of plants serves as a safety mechanism.

Water is released from the tips of plant leaves during this procedure. The guttation process involves the passage of soil-derived water. It absorbs vitamins, enzymes, and other substances (xylem sap), such as wheat, grass, barley, tomatoes, etc. Hydathodes are used for guttation. A unique type of tissue found in leaves called a hydathode is composed of several intercellular gaps between live, thin-walled parenchymatous cells. 

Process of Guttation

Root pressure buildup is the cause of guttation. Water enters the roots when the soil’s moisture content is high. This is made possible by the fact that roots have a lower water potential than soil, and that when water enters the roots, root pressure is produced. Hydathodes, which are structures found on the edges of the leaves, are used by the root pressure to force the water to ooze out as drops.

Transpiration and Guttation

Guttation is unaffected by transpiration. In reality, the transpiration pull is inhibited when the relative humidity is quite high at night, and root pressure generation results in guttation.



Water is lost as water vapors. Droplets of liquid water are lost in the atmosphere.
By means of Stomata. By means of hydathodes.
Pure water  Mineral salts abound in lost water.
Takes place during the day It occurs at night.

Following are External Factors Affecting Transpiration:

The rate of transpiration is inversely related to humidity. As the stomata similarly seal and open, they influence the environmental variables and the rate of transpiration.

In comparison to the Human Circulatory System

Similar to how the circulatory system moves nutrients throughout the human body, a plant’s vascular tissues transport nutrients throughout the entire plant. Plants use water as their main nutrient solvent, whereas people use blood as their main nutrient solvent. Plants rely on gravity and the cohesive qualities of water, but animals need blood pressure to carry nutrients throughout the body. Plants are unable to actively transfer water to each of their cellular units.

Contrarily, capillary action enables water to rise despite gravity. The two types of plant vascular tissue are the xylem, which carries water, and the phloem, which carries organic compounds like glucose.

Plants move water from root hair cells to the root xylem via apoplasts and symplasts, respectively. Cell walls and intracellular spaces are examples of non-living components found in apoplasts in plants. Protoplasm is one of the biological components found in symplasts.

FAQs on Long-Distance Transport Of Water

Question 1: What various modes of transportation do plants use?


The various modes of transportation used by plants include:

  1. Simple diffusion
  2. Active Transport
  3. Osmosis
  4. Facilitated diffusion

Question 2: How do plants move food around inside of them?


Phloem in plants carries food from one place to another. The ATP energy is used in the transportation process to generate osmotic pressure, which aids in moving food from a higher concentration to a lower concentration.

Question 3: What is Vein Unloading or Phloem Unloading?


Organic solutes are released from the sieve tubes into the root cells or underground stem storage organ cells by the symplastic and apoplastic pathways. The vein or phloem unloading refers to the discharge of sucrose from sieve tubes.

Question 4: How do plants move things around?


In the case of plants, there are three degrees of transportation:

  1. The movement of material between cells.
  2. Within the phloem and xylem, the sap is transported over long distances.
  3. The process through which individual cells discharge and absorb water and ions.

Question 5: What is osmosis?


It is a form of diffusion or a net movement of water molecules through a semipermeable membrane from a concentrated solution (more negative or lower water potential) to a dilute solution (less negative or higher water potential) (SPM). Osmotic diffusion is another name for osmosis.

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