Aerial Root Growth and Water Uptake in Philodendron bipinnatifidum

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Philodendron bipinnatifidum has been classified as a secondary hemiepiphyte, a form of epiphyte that germinates in the ground and eventually loses stem contact with the ground as aerial roots establish themselves into the ground. Aerial roots arise from the top of the plant?s stem rather than the base, which means the root is formed and grows initially in the air. Due to the plant?s lack of stem or underground roots, a humid environment is essential for their water uptake, which is why they are primarily found in tropical rainforests. In order to learn more about the importance of aerial roots in P. bipinnatifidum, I measured the growth of the aerial roots before they had entered the soil, and measured the uptake of water under different conditions. Over a four week period, the average aerial root grew approximately 5.5cm per week, and no difference was found between the water uptake of an aerial root with its tip intact and with its tip cut. In addition, I performed similar experiments for roots which were placed in a pot of soil to determine if there was a difference in growth or water uptake for these same roots after they entered the soil. The data collected from both of these experiments will provide important information concerning the function of aerial roots in water transport as well as the probable change that these roots undergo when they enter the ground.


Gretchen North




National Science Foundation -Research at Undergraduate Institutions Grant

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