Is Potato a Stem or Root?

When it comes to classifying the potato, there has been some confusion among botanists and gardeners alike. Is it a stem or a root? In this article, we will delve into the anatomy of the potato and explore the reasons behind its classification. By the end, you will have a clear understanding of whether the potato is a stem or a root.

The Anatomy of a Potato

Before we can determine whether the potato is a stem or a root, it is essential to understand its anatomy. The potato is a tuber, which is an underground storage organ that plants use to store nutrients and energy. It is part of the Solanaceae family, which also includes tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

When we cut open a potato, we can observe several distinct parts. The outer layer, known as the skin or periderm, protects the inner tissues. Beneath the skin, we find the cortex, which is responsible for storing starch. The central part of the potato is called the pith, and it contains the vascular tissue, including xylem and phloem, which transport water, nutrients, and sugars throughout the plant.

Stem-Like Characteristics

While the potato grows underground, it exhibits several characteristics that are typically associated with stems:

  • Nodes and Internodes: Stems have nodes, which are points where leaves, branches, or buds emerge. The potato also has nodes, which are the areas where the eyes or buds are located. The space between two nodes is called an internode.
  • Leaves: Stems are responsible for producing leaves, and the potato plant does have leaves. However, these leaves are usually small and scale-like, often falling off as the tuber grows.
  • Apical Dominance: Stems exhibit apical dominance, meaning that the terminal bud at the top of the stem inhibits the growth of lateral buds. Similarly, the eyes of the potato tuber have the potential to sprout and grow into new stems.

These stem-like characteristics have led some botanists to classify the potato as a stem rather than a root.

Root-Like Characteristics

On the other hand, there are also several characteristics of the potato that resemble roots:

  • Underground Growth: Roots typically grow underground, and the potato tuber is no exception. It develops beneath the soil surface, absorbing water and nutrients from the surrounding soil.
  • Root Hairs: Roots have tiny hair-like structures called root hairs, which increase the surface area for absorption. While the potato tuber does not have root hairs, it does have a rough surface that aids in nutrient uptake.
  • Storage Organ: Roots often serve as storage organs for plants, storing nutrients and energy for future use. Similarly, the potato tuber acts as a storage organ, containing starch and other essential nutrients.

These root-like characteristics have led to the classification of the potato as a root by some experts.

The Verdict: Potato as a Stem or Root?

After considering both the stem-like and root-like characteristics of the potato, it is clear that the potato is, in fact, a stem. While it grows underground and exhibits some root-like features, its stem-like characteristics, such as nodes, internodes, and the ability to sprout new stems from the eyes, outweigh the root-like characteristics.

Furthermore, the potato is an example of a modified stem known as a tuber. Tubers are specialized stems that store nutrients and energy, allowing plants to survive adverse conditions such as drought or winter. Other examples of tubers include yams and sweet potatoes.


In conclusion, the potato is a stem rather than a root. Its stem-like characteristics, including nodes, internodes, and the ability to sprout new stems, make it clear that the potato belongs to the stem category. However, it is important to note that the potato is a modified stem known as a tuber, which serves as an underground storage organ for nutrients and energy.

Understanding the classification of the potato can be valuable for gardeners and botanists alike. By recognizing its stem-like nature, gardeners can better understand how to propagate and care for potato plants. Additionally, this knowledge contributes to our understanding of plant anatomy and the diversity of plant structures.


1. Can you eat the stem of a potato?

No, the stem of a potato is not typically consumed. The edible part of the potato plant is the tuber, which is an underground stem.

2. Are all potatoes stems?

Yes, all potatoes are stems. However, not all stems are potatoes. Potatoes are a specific type of stem known as a tuber.

3. Can you grow a potato from a potato?

Yes, you can grow a potato from a potato. By planting a potato tuber or a piece of a tuber with an eye, you can grow a new potato plant.

4. Are sweet potatoes roots or stems?

Sweet potatoes are classified as roots. Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are not tubers but rather enlarged roots.

5. Are there any other examples of tubers?

Yes, there are several other examples of tubers. Some common examples include yams, cassava, and Jerusalem artichokes.

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