What Are Tubers In Plants? Definition, Examples And Fun Facts For Kids

Abhijeet Modi
Oct 17, 2023 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Oct 25, 2021
Fresh ginger plant

Tuberous roots of a plant normally propagate through the process of division.

Tubers are a wonder seen in the plant world as they support new stem growth. Tubers meaning as per dictionary is thickened and enlarged underground part of a rhizome or stem of plant whose function is to store nutrients.

Normally we eat the fruit of a plant. But there are other exceptional cases for certain plants, where we not only eat the fruit but the other parts like shoots, leaves, stems, and roots.

Such a different part of a plant that we use in our food for energy-giving nutrients is the tuber. Tubers are the swollen parts of the subterranean rhizomes or stolons and are ellipsoid in shape. Tubers have skin scars of leaves (eyebrows) with axillary buds (eyes) on them.

Tubers mostly grow underground. As tubers originate as the swollen part of stolons, they might be greatly shortened and thickened as stem segments. They are also known to contain high levels of starch and storage proteins and even bear roots.

The rhizome is an underground stem. And tubers are underground branches of the stem or underground root.

Rhizomes are smaller in size, as tubers are larger than rhizomes. Rhizomes have less starch content, while tubers hold a high content of starch. After learning all about stem tubers and root tubers, you will also be inclined to read the related articles on how are almonds grown and how to grow lima beans.

Tubers Definition

Many wonder, what exactly are tubers? Find out the definition of tubers below.

The modified root that plants use for storage under the ground are known as tubers that produce nodes all along their surface. For some seed plants, they are specialized storage stems that facilitate growth in the next season. Tubers are thick and usually short-sized. They normally grow below the soil.

As tubers are modified bulb-sized stems, they bear minute-scale leaves. Each having a bud that can potentially develop into a new plant. A typical example of the tuber is potato, as is the Jerusalem artichoke.

There are various scientific articles that have been published on this subject. Tubers are largely composed of starch-storing parenchyma tissues. These parenchyma tissues constitute the resting stage of various plants.

They also enable overwintering in many species. The term tubers are also imprecisely as well as widely used for fleshy roots, corms or rhizomes of other plants that have a high resemblance to tubers. Tubers are the thickest part of an underground stem or plant.

A common concept about tubers is that they are formed in the ground under the soil. But in some cases, they can be formed above the ground and soil, in aerial stems. An example of aerial tubers is air potatoes (Dioscorea bulbifera).

Stem tuber are responsible to store nutrients. Starch, which is formed by a lot of glucose molecules, is what is stored in the tubers.

Vegetables like potato and parsnip are the most popular although other carbohydrates, like inulin which is formed by fructose molecules, are also stored in root tubers of certain kinds of plants, just like Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).

jerusalem artichoke on a wooden table

Examples Of Tubers

The main purposes of tubers are to save nutrients and food for reproduction. Under certain natural conditions, parts of the stem that connect the tubers with the main stem die in Potato, which is a widely famous example for tubers.

Potatoes are artificially reproduced by tuber pieces, known as seed pieces. When the tuber is cut into pieces, there will be each tuber piece with one or more eyes. The eye of a potato is a group of buds that is covered by very small leaves.

Some examples of edible tubers include anemones, begonia, carrot, cassava, dahlia, oxalis, potato, tuberous, yams. They are mainly edible tuber vegetables. As for the examples of rhizomes, asparagus, bamboo, Chinese lantern, ginger, lotus, the Venus flytrap, western poison-oak, turmeric, comes into that list.

Taro and cocoyams are tubers, derived from corms, underground stems, and swollen hypocotyls. Canna and arrowroots come under the group of edible rhizomes. Some examples of tubers in flowers include anemone, cyclamen, caladium, dahlia, daylily, and peony.

Types Of Tubers

Predominant classification of rhizomes is not found. While tubers are of two kinds: stem tubers and root tubers. Tuber nodes develop into both roots and stems. Tubers can be of any size, as they have no standard size. These fleshy-rooted tubers of modified stems have starchy interiors. Tubers are known to grow in size every year.

Tubers are also a part of plant roots. Tuber root or storage root, is a modified lateral root, of a big size like a bulb, which functions as a storage organ.

These roots are often called tubers, even though they are roots and not true tubers like modified stems. The only difference between them is in origin.

Both tuber roots and modified stem tubers have the same function and they both have a similar appearance as well. A few example plants for tuberous roots include sweet potatoes, cassava, yam, dahlia, and Hemerocallis roots.

Tuber vegetables include sweet potatoes, carrot,  jicama, yam, and Jerusalem artichoke. All of these vegetables are modified versions of roots that have been enlarged to store nutrients for the plants.

As tuber vegetables are considered to be relatively low in metabolism, they have a long post-harvest life. These tuber vegetables are susceptible to wounding during harvest.

And therefore a curing treatment is applied immediately after harvest. While harvesting potatoes, you should take care to protect the potato tuber from exposing light, as a green pigment which is glycolipid, solanine could appear on the tuber.

Tubers Vs. Rhizomes

Tubers are rhizomes, both are modified stems which store food and nutrition for the plant.

Even though they have two different terms they serve the same purpose. The rhizome is a prostate stem that creeps horizontally under the surface of the soil.

Rhizomes are also provided with distinct nodes and internodes. While in the case of tubers, it is a swollen end of a special underground branch that arises from the axil of a lower leaf and grows horizontally.

Tubers have a number of eyes on their surface which grow into new plants. Rhizomes have slender adventitious roots that are given off from their lower side.

In tubers, adventitious roots are absent. They develop only when the tuber is planted from the base of aerial shoots. An example of a tuber is potato, and ginger comes in the set of rhizomes examples.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what are tubers then why not take a look at how are peanuts grown, or how are pistachios grown.

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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