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Root love

Parsnip root

About the last thing anyone is likely ever to see first-hand is the amazing root structure of plants! I’ve been fascinated by the massive size and complexity of ROOTS since I first saw a sketch of a full root system, and way more so after browsing the wealth of technical drawings of garden veggie roots in the fantastic and fully-online Root Development of Vegetable Crops. Root systems can be VAST, but they’re incredibly difficult to actually see since the mostly fine filaments that tunnel everywhere simply break off when you dig up a plant. Today’s parsnip harvest yielded a couple of unusual, still very partial root specimens that only begin to illustrate what’s going on down there. Who knows how just a few managed to come up with so much intact… For parsnips, according to RDoVC, after a season’s growth, “at the 8-foot level roots were common and a maximum penetration of 9 feet was determined.” In the top 10″ (25cm) of the soil, lateral roots extended up to 3′ (90cm). Pretty cool, huh?! (Thanks to hand-and-arm model Lynn.)

Parsnip root 2



  1. wow!  those are some great pictures!  I had no idea that a regular sized parsnip could grow so long!

  2. That is a rather interesting post. I remember watching a program about vegetable completions on pbs I think. It featured  a few people that grew root vegetables in very long pipes so they could harvest the root vegetable with the full root system intact. It may be a fun experiment on your farm!
    Check out my veggie garden blog:

  3. Wow, that is so impressive!  I had no idea, great pics!

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