Our heart is what pumps our blood throughout our bodies, right? Well, have you ever stopped to wonder how trees get water from their roots all the way to the top?
Research presented not too long ago by Donald J Merhaut really put things into perspective. He says trees and plants, in general, have a vast network of conduits made up of xylem and phloem tissues. This being similar to our own vascular systems. Yes, they move water through their beings in the way our heart pumps blood through our bodies.
Back in 2017 Andras Zlinszky actually noted this when studying nocturnal tree activity. They were measuring the change in shape of canopies of over 22 tree species during this research project. You see, after having ruled out any outside factors they were able to determine the movement of branches could potentially be an indication that the trees were working to pump water from their roots. That small movement essentially being the heartbeat of the tree.
That being said, researchers still aren’t quite sure how the pumping motion itself works or what it really consists of. Sure, they lack an actual pump and of course, don’t have a real heart of any kind, but they are able to move fluid throughout their beings. It seems to be passively driven by pressure but is still quite interesting. I am sure in the future we will better understand this whole process.
Alan Dickman from the University of Oregon told Scientific American as follows in regards to how water is ‘pumped’ through the body of a plant:
“Once inside the cells of the root, water enters into a system of interconnected cells that make up the wood of the tree and extend from the roots through the stem and branches and into the leaves. The scientific name for wood tissue is xylem; it consists of a few different kinds of cells. The cells that conduct water (along with dissolved mineral nutrients) are long and narrow and are no longer alive when they function in water transport. Some of them have open holes at their tops and bottoms and are stacked more or less like concrete sewer pipes. Other cells taper at their ends and have no complete holes. All have pits in their cell walls, however, through which water can pass. Water moves from one cell to the next when there is a pressure difference between the two.
“Because these cells are dead, they cannot be actively involved in pumping water. It might seem possible that living cells in the roots could generate high pressure in the root cells, and to a limited extent, this process does occur. But common experience tells us that water within the wood is not under positive pressure–in fact, it is under negative pressure or suction. To convince yourself of this, consider what happens when a tree is cut or when a hole is drilled into the stem. If there were positive pressure in the stem, you would expect a stream of water to come out, which rarely happens.
“In reality, the suction that exists within the water-conducting cells arises from the evaporation of water molecules from the leaves. Each water molecule has both positive and negative electrically charged parts. As a result, water molecules tend to stick to one another; that adhesion is why water forms rounded droplets on a smooth surface and does not spread out into a completely flat film. As one water molecule evaporates through a pore in a leaf, it exerts a small pull on adjacent water molecules, reducing the pressure in the water-conducting cells of the leaf and drawing water from adjacent cells. This chain of water molecules extends all the way from the leaves down to the roots and even extends out from the roots into the soil. So the simple answer to the question about what propels water from the roots to the leaves is that the sun’s energy does it: heat from the sun causes the water to evaporate, setting the water chain in motion.”
What do you think about all of this? For more information check out the video below. have you ever thought about how water moved through plants? Perhaps if you look close enough you can see the trunk and branches pumping this water to where it needs to be.