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.
Stems & Leaves
|Restricted to dampness,
moist, marshy areas
|All flowering plants,
|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 evaporation and 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 the 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 into chemical energy to produce glucose. Although both the xylem and phloem tissues are interconnected, the phloem provides organic solutes to all plants.
Quote Some Examples of Vascular Plants
Ferns are the best example of 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 cuticles 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 biome, and gets affected by changes in the climate. 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
All those plants with xylem and phloem tissues for the conduction of water and minerals are 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 have the specialty to grow anywhere and in any environment.
While on the other side, non-vascular plants are restricted to growing in swampy, marshy, or moist areas.
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.
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 possess unique structures called cuticles that are the perfect barrier for protecting the plants from desiccation.
On the contrary, non-vascular plants lack these structures but have particular dermal tissues to prevent water loss.
Again, these plants do not have true leaves.
Vascular plants have deep root channels, anchoring the plants to obtain all necessary nutrients.
On the other hand, non-vascular plants/bryophytes possess unique rhizoids to support the plant.
These plants reproduce by seed formation.
In contrast, such plants reproduce through spore formation.
Some common examples are ferns, horsetails, cycad, etc.
Similar, non-vascular plants also have different examples, including mosses, algae, 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 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 niches are widely distributed throughout the habitat.
Anna has completed her degree in Pharmacy from the University of Hawaii. She is serving as a research assistant in a pharmaceutical company. She had a great interest in writing blogs, traveling to different parts of the US, and trying delicious recipes in her spare time.