Difference Between Stem and Trunk

The key difference between stem and trunk is that the stem usually refers to the main structural axis of a plant while the trunk usually refers to the main structural axis of a tree.

Stem and trunk are two botanical names sometimes used in a similar sense. Strictly speaking, there is some difference between stem and trunk. The experts in botany or plant biology and plant biotechnology say that a trunk is not only a stem, but it is the main stem of a tree.

From this explanation, we understand that what is the stem of a plant is the trunk of a tree. Hence, it can be said that the word ‘trunk’ is used while referring to a tree whereas the word ‘stem’ is used while referring to a plant.

What is Trunk?

Tree is simply a plant that belongs to Kingdom Plantae. However, the usage of the word ‘tree’ limits to refer a woody perennial plant that has a single trunk and grows to a specific height. The trunk of a tree is an important structure that facilitates the easy differentiation of a tree from other plants.

Hence, the trunk usually refers to the main wooden axis of a tree. Bole is a synonym of the trunk. The trunk actually supports the branches of the tree (crown) and is in turn supported by the roots. It is interesting to note that the trunk of a tree is directly attached to the roots of the tree.

Furthermore, trunk of a tree provides a shape to the tree as well as it strengths the tree. All the tubes that transport water, minerals and nutrients from roots to leaves travel within the trunk of the tree.

Structurally, trunk has five main parts; namely, bark, inner bark, cambium, sapwood and heartwood. The bark is the protective layer of the trunk while the inner bark consists of the phloem. Sapwood consists of the xylem while the heartwood consists of old xylem cells and it is the centre of the trunk.

Due to the secondary growth of plants, trunk becomes thick over time. Ultimately it becomes the most important part of a tree which used in timber production. Furthermore, trunk has many applications such as paper industry, furniture making, constructing buildings, etc.

What is Stem?

A stem is one of the two main structural axes of a vascular plant. Unlike the trunk of a tree, stem is not necessarily protected with a bark; hence, does not form part of the bark. It consists of nodes and internodes.

Structurally, there are three main parts of a stem; namely, phloem, cambium, and xylem. Often the stem is a green straw-like structure present under the actual flower of the plant. It is important to know that leaves may stick out of the stem.

In some plants, stems can be found below the ground in the form of tubers, rhizomes and corms. Other than storing foods, some stems store water while the green stems carry out photosynthesis.

In addition, some plant stems are edible and hence, humans and other animals consume them. A stem has different functions in a plant. It supports leaves, buds, flowers and fruits. Furthermore, it helps to transport nutrients, and water to other parts of the plant.

What are the Similarities Between Stem and Trunk?

  • Both stem and trunk are main structural axes of plants.
  • They provide strength to plants.
  • Furthermore, they support branches of the plants.
  • Also, they facilitate the transportation of water and nutrients.

What are the difference between Stem and Trunk?

  • All plants have stems as a part of the organism’s structure. Stems come in many varieties which also include the trunks of trees. A trunk is also a stem and functions as the primary stem of a tree.
  • Stems and trunks have a similar purpose – to give support to the other parts of the plant. For plants that are not classified as trees, the stems serve to hold the leaves and flowers. Meanwhile, the tree also has the same functions in carrying the whole tree canopy which includes the tree’s branches and the leaves.
  • Another shared responsibility of stems and trunks is acting as a passageway for the plant’s nourishment. It also serves as a link for the plant to its roots.
  • Stems have a variety of types while a trunk is only one of those mentioned types.
  • Stems are directly attached to the leaves and don’t have surrounding bark. Meanwhile, the trunk isn’t directly connected to the leaves and has a coat of bark. The trunk also features the tree “rings” which are often the indicators of the tree’s age and growth in its lifetime.
  • A trunk is usually above the ground while stems are more flexible – they grow and live above or beneath the ground.

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