One thing about plants that’s easy to forget is that much of the plant–the biomass–is underground. An exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Gardens highlights the importance and size of roots. Here are some grasses, with their root systems intact:

Those root systems are about six to eight feet long. More roots:

The guy in this photo is about 6’3″ to give you some sense of scale:


One of the things we’ve done while domesticating plants is shift the biomass of some pretty weedy plants from the root system to stuff above ground that we like to eat (the seeds):

More roots:

And for the grand finale, the buffalo gourd, Curcurbita foetidissima, which is one big motherfucking gourd:

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2 Responses to Roots

  1. armchairdeductions – Author, erstwhile consultant, patron saint of the impecunious, and adult survivor of Cluster B matriarchal mayhem.
    armchairdeductions says:

    Needless to say, I’m not looking forward to lawn maintenance this season.

  2. zero says:

    There is a similar display of prairie grasses and their root depths in Morrill Hall at UNL, but theirs is painted on the wall. For anyone with occasion to visit Lincoln, NE you should definitely stop there (bring the kids, they have fun stuff in the basement).

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