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Tap Rooted Plants

Suzie Browning


Joined: Jun 10, 2010
Posts: 48
Location: Southwestern Ohio
I discovered Permaculture a few months ago so I may have some pretty novice questions to ask at times.  I've been a gardener for a long time but really never gave much thought to root systems and their complicated ways of supporting the plant with nutrients or how their root systems might support other plants.

Do all tap rooted plants bring nutrients up to be used by other plants?

The following quote is from: http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2006/01/11_amazon.shtml

Trees have long been known to lift water from the soil to great heights using a principle called hydraulic lift, with energy supplied by evaporation of water from leaf openings called stomata. Twenty years ago, however, some small plants were found to do more than lift water from the soil to the leaves - they also lifted deep water with their tap root and deposited it in shallow soil for use at a later time, and reversed the process during the rainy season to push water into storage deep underground. Dawson discovered in 1990 that trees do this, too, and to date, so-called hydraulic redistribution has been found in some 60 separate deeply rooted plant species.
  (Bolding is mine)

Do you think these plants that deposit water shallowly, use it all themselves or could that water be available to other plants nearby?  (The article did state that they thought the main purpose was to make it easier for the plant to draw nutrients from the soil)  Which rears another question, as silly as it may sound, just what is the purpose of water to a plant?

Does anyone know what the 60 other plants species might be?


On the border of Zones 5 & 6 on the last 2 acres of what was once a large farm.  Flat, flat and more flat!
Kevin Franck


Joined: Mar 24, 2012
Posts: 17
Location: Göteborg Sweden
Suzie Browning wrote:I discovered Permaculture a few months ago so I may have some pretty novice questions to ask at times.  I've been a gardener for a long time but really never gave much thought to root systems and their complicated ways of supporting the plant with nutrients or how their root systems might support other plants.

Do all tap rooted plants bring nutrients up to be used by other plants?

If you do a Google Search on the words/terms "Hydraulic Lift and Redistribution" you'll come up often times with alot of general studies of this amazing natural phenomena, but add a comma in that search bar and type in any specific plant you may be curious about will bring up more detailed and fascinating research on that particular plants importance in that ecosystem. For example I added the plant common & species name of a high elevation type of Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) which is a sort of poster child plant of the high mountain west. Now from first glance, who would think such a low growing brush could accomplish such an important task for other life around it. Certainly it is not as deep rooted as say a Mesquite of the Deserts Southwest or the African Acacias of the great Savanahs. But it has some incredible studies done with this terminology and phenomena.


Suzie Browning wrote:Do you think these plants that deposit water shallowly, use it all themselves or could that water be available to other plants nearby?  (The article did state that they thought the main purpose was to make it easier for the plant to draw nutrients from the soil)  Which rears another question, as silly as it may sound, just what is the purpose of water to a plant?

Does anyone know what the 60 other plants species might be?


The individual referenced in your link and quote , Todd Dawson has done much research on several shrubs or trees with this amazing ability. I did a page on my blog (link in my Profile here) on Dawson's Lab and some of his work regarding Maple Trees in the northern Temperate forests who provide a major contribution towards this phenomena. I think more consideration should be given to this mechanism when environmental restoration projects or even urban landscaping or home gardening are to be undertaken. Again, when doing a search and curious on a specific tree or shrub, just associate the term with the plant's name.

Good Luck
Evan Nilla


Joined: Apr 30, 2012
Posts: 19
i know this thread spans a lot of time, but, i think sepp holzers whole system is based around this fact. However, what we need to do now are find plants that like each other. Its not about competition, its about enabling cooperation, and, thats what our energy should be focused on. Cycling water like this will be hugely importing moving forward.
Kevin Franck


Joined: Mar 24, 2012
Posts: 17
Location: Göteborg Sweden
Evan Nilla wrote:i know this thread spans a lot of time, but, i think Sepp Holzers whole system is based around this fact. However, what we need to do now are find plants that like each other. Its not about competition, its about enabling cooperation, and, thats what our energy should be focused on. Cycling water like this will be hugely importing moving forward.


Then you may enjoy this Evan.




As a former Landscape Supervisor from Southern California, I practice community planting of plants which are for the most part known to already grow together or have similar habitat requirements. But none of that will work either if you DO NOT use the correct Mycorrhizal Applications along with beneficial bacteria. And avoid the temptation to use Science-Based Chemical junk foods.




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