Scientists Say: Xylem

This plant tissue slurps water from the base of a plant and brings it to the tips

white carnations

You can make these white carnations turn different colors by sticking their stems in water tinted with food coloring. As the colored water moves up through the xylem, the blooms will pick up the new hue.

M Cheung/Flickr/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Xylem (noun, “ZY-lem”)

This is the part of a plant that transports water and some nutrients. Forming long tubes called vessels, the xylem brings water from the roots to the rest of the plant. In trees, this can mean water flows hundreds of feet upward. The water is pulled up the xylem by transpirational pull. As water is lost as vapor to the air from the leaves , the plant pulls even more water up from the roots to replace it.

In a sentence

During a drought, lack of water may make air bubbles form in a tree’s xylem. If too much air gets in, the water flow stops and the tree will die.

Follow Eureka! Lab on Twitter

Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

xylem  The part of a plant that conducts water, nutrients and sap.

transpiration  A process in which plants carry moisture from their roots to their leaves, where it is then lost to the atmosphere as vapor.

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

More Stories from Science News Explores on Plants