Looking for a scientific word to describe the uptake of nutrients through the roots of a plant.

I’m looking for a scientific word to describe the uptake of nutrients through the roots of a plant. Is it covered by osmosis and transpiration? I look forward to your feedback.

I believe it’s called ‘translocation’.

Osmosis and transpiration are specific mechanisms within nutrient acquisition. Translocation is the process of moving nutrients in various states of digestion from one place to another, e.g. from the intestinal wall into the bloodstream and to cells, or for plants from the root structures to chloroplasts. The overall process of absorbing and alteration of nutrients into a form accessible to cellular metabolism is called assimilation.

Translocation has numerous meanings in biology; that most applicable to botany is movement of nutrients though the phloem, the living tissue of plants that transfers water and sugars fromt the root structure to thr branching, fruiting, and flowering organs.


I recalled the term ‘translocation’ while looking into the mechanisms of gene sharing in plant hybrids. It seems to apply to the movement of nutrients and genes in plants in any direction between plant parts and not exclusively to nutrient uptake from roots. It also applies to the transport of nutrients developed in leaves by photosynthesis to buds and fruit for example.

The standard term for this in every biology textbook I’ve ever read is, funnily enough, “uptake”.

Thank you Stranger ON A Train. Very helpful. Thank you all.

I believe that’d be capilation. Plants wick xylem (water and nutrients) through capilary action. As water evaporates from the leaves, the tubular xylem acts like millions of tiny straws. Pretty amazing, considering redwoods manage to pump nutrients from their roots to their leaves without any sort of active “pump.” Our poor little hearts struggle at over 7 ft!

Translocation is also correct, if you’re speaking strictly about nutrients the plant makes (namely, sugar in the phloem).

Sorry etasyde. I couldn’t find this word ‘capilation’ anywhere on Google. Is it a misspelling? Can you offer a link?

I assume he means capillary action. But I think transpiration is more of what happens, where evaporation in leaves drives the process.

Googling the title of this thread pulls up a link to the scientific publication *Nature *which refers to water “uptake” and nutrient “acquisition” .

The word I meant was “capillation” though I was confusing an archiac noun (which somehow managed to find its way into my head) for a verb with near-identical etymology. On second inspection, capillation refers exclusive to capillaries, not capillary action (very odd word structure imho). The important distinction for the discussion at hand, however, lies in the difference between Xylem and Phloem.

The OP asks nutrients from the roots of the plant, and that’s Xylem + capillary action, not the action of Phloem + translocation. However, I also suspect that the very fact that there are two independent transport systems was unknown to the OP, so both are “correct” in that it covers nutrients the OP probably also meant to cover.

Thank you etasyde. Can you clarify how the two transport systems differ in what they transport? I was thinking only Phloem + translocation for the transport of nutrients. Does Xylem + capillary action transport nutrients as well?

“Nutrients” covers a wide range of molecules. Macronutrients are what most people think of when the word gets used. That’s all the familiar stuff: amino acids/proteins, fats/sterols/etc, sugars, and the like. Most of that would be handled in the Phloem. But micronutrients are also important - those are things like vitamins, minerals (Zinc, Iron, magnesium, and others), and generally inorganic compounds. That would primarily come up the Xylem from the roots.

Plant physiology is really, really complicated. My botanist friends will stab me if I try to go into any significant detail, but the broadest picture I can accurately paint is that xylem is passive, composed of dead cells that utilize evaporation to “straw” water and nutrients from the dirt itself through capillary action up into the plant, and phloem is more active, living cells, translocating nutrients made in the leaves via photosynthesis and other nutrients from around the plant through the insides of dedicated, living cells. Both of course are important.

Oh, and since Phloem is active transport, it can go in any direction. Xylem is strictly one way.