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Difference between Vascular and Non-Vascular Plants

Vascular and -vs-Non-Vascular plants

All plants are eukaryotes, mainly divided into vascular and non-vascular plants. The names are defined based on the presence or absence of a complete vascular system. So, the main difference variating the two terminologies is having xylem and phloem tissues. We’ll discuss these two plant types in detail below, but first, understand the functioning of the xylem and phloem!

Xylem tissues carry water and minerals to all plant parts, whereas phloem provides food. Keeping this in mind, all plants capable of having a well-organized system are vascular plants, and the opposite is the case for non-vascular ones. Let’s have a look at the brief comparison table below.

Comparison Table

ParametersVascular PlantsNon-Vascular Plants
DiversityWidely distributedLess diverse
Vascular SystemPresentAbsent
True Roots,
Stems & Leaves
Dominating GenerationSporophytesGametophytes
of Growth
Grown everywhereRestricted to dampness,
moist, marshy areas
ExamplesAll flowering plants,
& ferns
Mosses, liverworts, etc.

What are Vascular Plants?

Tracheophytes is another (scientific) name of vascular plants with differentiated tissues. It is originated from a Greek word, trachea, meaning duct/vessel in plants. The vascular plants help connect water, minerals, and many photosynthetic products. In addition, the two main types of tissues involved in the phenomenon are xylem and phloem, which help increase the overall size of such plants.

Structure of Vascular Plants

Their interior is well-ordered, and the cell alignment is differentiated as these plants are well-organized. The xylem tissues assist in transporting water obtained from roots to the rest of the plant body and are composed of lignin (an essential protein) and dead cells. Water is gained inside the tissues through roots by upward pressure. Ultimately, this water is utilized for transpirational purposes inside the leaves. The stomata (tiny openings in the plants) ejects the water out of the plants.

The other one is the phloem tissue which is also a vascular structure. Phloem tissues take the food from photosynthetic cells and transport it to the rest of plant parts for development or storage purposes. These are present only on a single xylem side, in aligned form, mainly in the direction of the stem exterior. Besides, they take out energy from sunlight and modify it to chemical energy to produce glucose. Although both xylem and phloem tissues are interconnected, phloem provides organic solutes to all plants.

Quote Some Examples of Vascular Plants


Ferns are the best example among lower vascular plants. All those well-organized plants undergoing reproduction using spores are referred to as ferns. These plants are located in humid and hot areas. Moreover, their sizes range from very small to relatively tall trees up to 25 meters in altitude.


All large communities of vascular plants reproduce by forming seeds instead of spores. Such plants are categorized as gymnosperms and angiosperms. All these trees are about 3-5 feet high, with cycads being one of them. These are known to produce seed cones in female plants compared to leaf-life structures with seeds in male plants.

What are Non-Vascular Plants?

These plants are also called bryophytes that lack particular internal structures (xylem and phloem). A root system is present, called rhizoids, but because of the absence of a vascular system, these rhizoids depend on osmosis and diffusion. It is the reason why bryophytes are primarily observed in damp areas. At the same time, non-vascular plants can tolerate dehydration, so they regain themselves without any plant damage. Such plants are, therefore, called poikilohydric.

Structure of Non-Vascular Plants

Instead of true leaves and proper roots, bryophytes possess thin, filamentous, thread-like structures called rhizoids. These structures help the plant fetch water and minerals from underground. In addition, the absence of cuticle and vascular tissues promotes passive and fast water absorption on the entire surface. They get nutrients directly through the environment that further differentiates from one cell to another in plants. Consequently, these plants are primarily small-sized and grow close to the ground.

Quote Some Examples of Non-Vascular Plants


These non-vascular plants are found everywhere in the world. Like the green carpets of vegetation, these plants are small and thick. Mosses develop in dense bundles, helping them to hold moisture. Till now, there are almost 12,000 known moss species. Few of them are pretty small, while others can grow considerably larger.


These are other types of non-vascular plants, primarily found in tropical environments. Liverworts grow as microscopic, independent leaf-like structures. These species are less common than mosses but are present in almost every land and biome. Besides being devoid of stems, these plants have delicate rhizoids and are less than 10 centimeters (4-inch) tall.

Differences between Vascular and Non-Vascular Plants


Vascular Plants

All those plants with xylem and phloem tissues for the conduction of water and minerals are vascular plants.

Non-Vascular Plants

On the other hand, plants devoid of a well-organized structure (lacking xylem and phloem tissues) are non-vascular plants.

Areas of Growth

Vascular Plants

Vascular plants have the specialty to grow anywhere and in any environment.

Non-Vascular Plants

While on the other side, non-vascular plants are restricted to growing in swampy, marshy, or moist areas.

Life Cycle

Vascular Plants

These plants give rise to diploid spores, so the dominant life cycle for vascular plants is the sporophytic phase. Sporophytes are the diploid entities that divide into haploid cells to form generations.

Non-Vascular Plants

Both plant types show alterations in generations, but in non-vascular plants, the dominant life cycle is a gametophytic phase. It means the sexual degree which produces gametes.


Vascular Plants

Vascular plants possess unique structures called cuticles that are the perfect barrier for protecting the plants from desiccation.

Non-Vascular Plants

On the contrary, non-vascular plants lack these structures but have particular dermal tissues to prevent water loss.


Vascular Plants

Such plants have true leaves with distinct shapes, which must play a crucial role in photosynthesis.

Non-Vascular Plants

Again, these plants do not have true leaves.


Vascular Plants

Vascular plants have deep root channels, anchoring the plants to obtain all necessary nutrients.

Non-Vascular Plants

On the other hand, non-vascular plants/bryophytes possess unique rhizoids to support the plant.


Vascular Plants

These plants reproduce by seed formation.

Non-Vascular Plants

In contrast, such plants reproduce through spore formation.


Vascular Plants

Some common examples are ferns, horsetails, cycad, etc.

Non-Vascular Plants

Similar, non-vascular plants also have different examples, including mosses, liverworts, hornworts, etc.


Plants, as a whole, are eukaryotes with similar functions, but there are a few types categorized based on nature, function, structure, or growth areas. Vascular and non-vascular plants are one of those types that are both involved in alteration of generation but through variating preferences. Vascular plants reproduce and grow through sporophytes as a dominating life cycle. On the contrary, non-vascular plants have the gametophytic phase as a dominating life cycle. All in all, both types are widely distributed throughout the habitat.

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