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General Information
about Root Systems
The nature of the underground parts of wildflowers varies greatly and may influence the types of habitats where they can be grown. The type of root system also affects how easily a plant can be propagated.

True Roots

These roots may be either widely spread out and fibrous or they may be strongly vertical with a carrot type taproot. Some species of wildflowers have an intermixing of both basic types of root systems occurring.
Typical Plants
Cardinal Flower, Purple Coneflower, Yellow Coneflower, Compass Plant, New England Aster, Prairie Phlox, Praire Dock, Large Flowered Beardtongue.

Bulbs and Corms

A round and bulbous rootstock formed from a swollen, solid basestem is called a "corm." Corms may look similar to bulbs, but true "bulbs" are formed by fleshy leaves that surround a bud on top of a short stem.
Typical Plants
Corms - Jack-in-the-pulpit, Blazingstar

Bulbs - Nodding Onion


Horizontal underground stems, typically thick and fleshy, having buds on their top surface and roots on the bottom surface. Accumulations of rich stores of starch are used by the shoots and flowers as the perennials emerge from dormancy.
Typical Plants
Western Sunflower, Canada Anemone, Prairie Smoke, Wild Geranium, Bergotmot.

Runners and Stolons

One of the simplest root systems, it has thick horizontal branches, from which rise new plants. Branches above ground are usually called "runners" and are referred to as "stolons" if below the ground.
Typical Plants


When the tip of a stolon produces a swollen storage organ it's called a "tuber." The leaf buds of tubers are often called "eyes."
Typical Plants
Butterfly Plant

("Typical Plants" are examples of some species that can be found with these root types.)

Click here to see some example root depths.

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