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can plants absorb water through their leaves-min

Can plants only absorb water through their roots?

With all that rain the past couple of days, you might very well have stayed indoors a bit more. I know I have, even though I usually rather like rainy days. But, whichever way you spin it, the plants love getting some water. They greedily absorb it into their system. But can do only do so with their roots, or…?

alchemilla leaf-minOf course you already guessed it, they can use another method too. Otherwise I would not have dedicated a whole post to it, right? So let’s see how that works.

The primary way for plants to absorb water is of course through their roots. The water in the soil gets drawn into the roots because of a lower concentration of water there. Once it is in the roots, the plant uses its transport system to relocate the water to the leaves, buds, flowers etcetera. It works a bit like our own cardiovascular system, except that plants don’t have a hart to pump fluid around. Instead, the plant uses vacuum to pull the water up. You can imagine that if water evaporates from the leaves, the transport cells become empty there. To fill up the void, new water is pulled up.
Apart from that, there is also a mechanism pushing the water up from the roots. That might get a bit too technical to explain here, but if you do want to know, leave a comment and I’ll write some more about that. For now, let’s just keep it at this explanation of how water gets from the roots to the rest of the plant.

So what about the other method for collecting water? That is what you really want to know, right?

Well, here it is, plants can absorb water through their leaves too. Yup, really! I immediately have to add that it is not proven to be like that in all types of plants, but some pretty interesting research is going on at this very moment, trying to prove that it does happen in many, many plants. It actually is a nice backup for a plant, to be able to absorb some water from the air if the soil gets too dry.

leave with droplets-minFor over a century, some gardening movements have used the ability of plants to absorb water through their leaves. They would claim it very important to “water” the leaves as well, for example by spraying water on them. Though arguments both against and in favour of that method could be given, it does suggest that plants are in fact able to react to water on their leaves.

But it is only recently that proper scientific research has been conducted on this phenomenon. And it turns out to be even more exciting than expected. For the research team of J. Laube et al. have found that plants not only absorb water that is lying on the leaves, they can actually take it up from the air! In the long haul, that bit of absorbed water won’t be enough for the plant to survive on, but it might just be the little help it needs to survive a particularly dry period. With more research, we will hopefully find out more about the workings of this mechanism. Who knows what we will find plants capable of?

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Did you think plants could absorb water from the air?

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1 Comment

  • Reply Sandra HippoLogic

    Super interesting. Keep them coming! I like to learn new stuff about nature. Thank you, Inge.

    24/05/16 at 19:24
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