Difference Between Vascular and Nonvascular Plants

Introduction image

Difference between vascular and nonvascular plants is mainly due to the following factors:
Vascular tissue: Its presence or absence distinguishes the vascular plants containing vascular tissue from the nonvascular plants those lack vascular tissue. The translocation of food, water and minerals is facilitated by the coordination of vascular vessels within root and stem.

Plant taxonomy: Vascular plants are the higher plants belonging to the group of tracheophytes, which comprising a well-developed root and shoot system, while the nonvascular plants are the lower plants that are microscopic and possessing small leaves and rhizoids instead of roots.

Content: Vascular Vs Nonvascular Plants

  1. Comparison Chart
  2. Definition
  3. Key Differences
  4. Similarities
  5. Conclusion

Comparison Chart

PropertiesVascular PlantsNonvascular Plants
DefinitionVascular plants are the green plants of varying shapes and sizes, which comprise a specialized xylem and phloem vessels for water, minerals and food conduction, and along with that also possess a true root and shoot systemNon-vascular plants are the green and microscopic plants with poorly developed root and shoot system, and do not have a vascular system or the mechanics for water and food transportation
SizeThese plants grow larger in size This group of plants are generally microscopic or grow relatively smaller compared with non-vascular plants
AbsorptionThese possess deep roots that are specialized to absorb water through osmosisThese plants lack deep root system and solely depend on osmosis and diffusion to absorb water passively
Root SystemVascular plants possess a true root system that supports the plant body by absorbing water and essential minerals from the soil that are needed for the plant growth and developmentNonvascular plants possess shallow roots or rhizoids instead of a true root system
Dominant generation phaseIts principal generation phase is sporophyte that lasts longerIn nonvascular plants, the gametophyte phase is the dominant phase that persists longer
Stem/Shoot systemIt contains a well-developed shoot systemIt is devoid of true shoot system, as it only possess small leaves and lacks true stem, root, flowers, fruits, wood etc.
ReproductionIt is achieved via seedIt is achieved via spores
LeavesVascular plants possess true leaves that have cuticle, epidermis, meristematic cells, and stomata that are specialized to do distinct functionsIt lacks true leaves and specialized cells or tissues
Growth habitatThese can grow in variety of habitatsThese can grow in swampy, marshy, and damp places
ExamplesIt includes clubmosses, grasses, sunflower, pines, horsetails, true ferns, angiosperms and gymnospermsIt includes mosses, green algae, liverworts and hornworts

Definition of Vascular Plants

Vascular plants or tracheophytes constitute a large group of terrestrial plants that carry specialized vessels (xylem and phloem), which are well distributed in the roots, stems, and leaves. Xylem and phloem cells constitute the vascular system and aid the translocation of food and water all over the plant body. Besides, the vascular system also provides support and rigidity to the plant.

Vascular plants

Vascular plants possess well-developed vascular tissues, meristematic tissues, ground tissues, and dermal tissues. The life cycle of a vascular plant has alternations of two generations, in which a diploid sporophyte phase lasts longer. There is a characteristic feature of vascular plants that comprise a true root system and shoot system. Vascular plants include ferns, conifers, and flowering plants. The plants belong to this group have diverse and complex life cycles.

The vascular vessels in vascular plants are of two kinds, depending on what they transport. The phloem vessels transport the photosynthetic food material to the rest of the plant body. In contrast, xylem vascular vessel aids the conduction of water from roots up to the whole plant. It includes trees, shrubs, grasses, flowering plants, and ferns.

Definition of Nonvascular Plants

Nonvascular plants or bryophytes form a group of aquatic and terrestrial plants that are without any specialized vessels (phloem and Xylem) for water and mineral conduction. It include green-algae, mosses, ferns, liverworts, and hornworts. They are considered as the lower plants, as these have neither true leaves, stem, root, flowers, and fruits nor specialized tissues for water and food conduction.

Nonvascular plants

For the water translocation, nonvascular plants have simple tissues. A haploid gametophyte generation is prominent in the life cycle of nonvascular plants. These appear microscopic and grow very small. Instead of roots, it contains rhizoids, which only support the plant body and perform no special role in water absorption.

Nonvascular plants lack deep roots that absorb water, so to combat this water requirement these are generally found in the moist environments so that they remain in touch with the water source. The reproductive strategy of nonvascular plants is quite different, as these can reproduce sexually via single-celled spores or asexually by budding and fragmentation.

Key Differences Between Vascular and Nonvascular Plants

  1. Vascular plants make a group of plants that not only possess true root and shoot system, but also a well-developed vascular system for water, minerals, and food translocation. On the other hand, non-vascular plants are simple and short that neither comprises a mechanics for water and food conduction nor contain a true root and shoot system.
  2. Vascular plants grow larger, due to its well-organized vascular system (phloem and xylem). Non-vascular plants are relatively smaller in size.
  3. The root system of vascular plants possess deep roots that anchor the plant and along with that also absorb nutrients from the soil. In contrast, non-vascular plants lack deep roots, and instead of that contain hairy structures called rhizoids, which only keep the plant at its place.
  4. The life cycle of both the plants has an alternation of generations, where one phase dominates over the other. The dominant or principal generation phase of vascular plants and nonvascular plants is a diploid sporophyte and a haploid gametophyte phase, respectively.
  5. Vascular plants comprise a true stem that participates in photosynthesis, facilitates gaseous exchange, while nonvascular plants rarely comprise a true stem system.
  6. Vascular can grow in a variety of habitats, while non-vascular plants particularly grow in marshy, shady, and moist places.


  • Vascular and Nonvascular Plants belong to the kingdom Plantae.
  • Both are photoautotrophic.
  • The means of asexual reproduction are common in both the vascular and nonvascular plants.
  • Fertilization and embryo development is similar in both the kinds of plants.
  • Both plants exhibit alternation of generations (sporophytic and gametophytic phase).


Therefore, we can conclude that the vascular and nonvascular plants are green, photoautotrophic plants belonging to the kingdom Plantae. There are many phenotypic differences among these two, like the plant length, presence of true leaf, stem and deep roots, etc. apart from that, there are many physiological differences like the presence of vascular system.

The nonvascular plants have first evolved, and that is the reason why these lack a cell mechanics for the water and food translocation. Thus, the nonvascular plants consider as the common ancestors of the vascular plants.

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