UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
If a plant were to be grown upside down, could it anchor itself with it's roots into the soil?
Answer 1:

People have been wondering about why shoots grow up and roots grow down for centuries. People were doing experiments back in the 1800 to try to find answers. They wondered whether roots just grew toward water and shoots grew toward light. That would make sense, since roots take up water and leaves collect light. To test these hypotheses (science guesses) they put water above and light below, but plants still sent roots down and shoots up. One scientist did an experiment like your rolling Petri dish experiment, where plants were attached to a water wheel that turned slowly. He found the roots growing in all directions. (In case youre wondering, he had to use a water wheel because this was long before people had figured out how to use electric current to do work. Imagine how they might have done an experiment where the light was below the plant before electric lights.)

Scientists decided that gravity itself was what caused the plants to grow shoots up/roots down. Tropisms are ways that plants move or grow toward or away from certain things. We call these things cues or stimuli.

Geotropism literally means growth that is affected by the earth (you can see that geo is a word fragment that means earth: geology, geography, etc.).

Seeds usually start growing in the soil where theres no light and where water may be above or below them. A seed that had genes that made its roots grow down and its shoots grow up based on gravity has a better chance of surviving and reproducing than one that grows in all directions until it finds light and water.

More recently, plants were grown in space to see what would happen. At first, they grew in all directions, then the shoots started to go toward light, while roots started to grow toward water. Remember that these were guesses that the first plant scientists had 200 years ago! It turns out that they were sort of right. So whats going on? Plants also have genes that let shoots and leaves grow toward the light (phototropism) and roots grow toward water (hydrotropism). Maybe they just become active later or are not as strong as the geotropism genes. How would you test that?

Thank you for asking.

Answer 2:

Plant roots grow down, towards gravity.This effect is known as geotropism (it can also be called gravitropism). Geotropism happens whenever the direction that a plant grows in is in response to the direction of gravity. ("Tropism," which is part of the word "geotropism," refers to any organism that turns in response to something external, or around them in their environment.) Plants can respond to gravity because there are certain cells in their roots that can tell what the direction of gravity is. These cells tell the tip of the root where gravity is pulling from, and this makes the tip of the roots grow down, towards gravity. (The tip of the root is where the roots do all their growing.)

Answer 3:

Yes, the roots will anchor and grow into the nutrients and the plant will grow out following light and possibly turn upwards if it can to grow against gravity.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use