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What is the Potato - Fruit or Root?

By Ajay Dasgupta; Illustration by Shinod AP

Make a trip to the vegetable market and you get lost behind mountains of onions and potatoes. Pick up a potato and you notice eyes with little lashes on it. In fact, the lashes look like tiny roots. Have you ever wondered why the potato has roots on it? Or, is the potato a fruit or a root?

A plant's body is made of three basic parts - root, stem and leaf. The root is generally hidden as it is under the ground. The stem is the tall, woody part, which gives support to the plant. The leaves are the green, flat and thin structures that manufacture food.

However, all plants do not follow this pattern of division. In some, these parts of the plant's body look very different from this description.

Potato: a stem in disguise
What is the potato - fruit or root?, 5W&H for kids: 137_1.gif The potato is one such example. It is actually a stem - but a stem that grows under the ground!

Many plants are masters at adapting themselves to their surroundings; they can change their structure to suit their needs - primarily of water.

Just as we keep large vessels handy in the scorching summer to store water, plants deal with the problem in a smarter way. Their body parts have changed over a period of time so as to adjust to their surroundings. Thus, the potato plant has changed the shape and size of its stem to store food and water. And this storage is done under the ground where it is relatively cooler.

The onion is a leaf
This kind of adaptation can be seen everywhere in the plant and animal kingdom. Take the onion, for example. It is actually a leaf, which has been modified to store food and water.

Similarly, the spines of a berry plant are actually its leaves. They have changed into this shape to protect it from plant-eating animals.

Cactus: king of adaptation
The cactus is an expert at adapting itself to its surroundings. It grows in dry and arid regions where there is very little rainfall. So it has converted its leaves into spines to protect it from animals. Its stem fulfils the two vital functions of storing water as well as manufacturing food.

The plant world is full of strange and wonderful adaptations. The next time you see potatoes in the vegetable market, you will know there is more to it than meets the eye. Literally!

What is the potato - fruit or root? [5W&H for kids]
By Ajay Dasgupta; Illustration by Shinod AP


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