Xylem vs Phloem- Definition, difference, structure and function

Xylem and phloem together forms the vascular system of plants. They perform the same function of transportation but they are different in many ways. Let us learn how.

Xylem vs Phloem- Definition, difference, structure and function

In plants, xylem and phloem constitutes the vascular system that conducts water and food throughout the plant body. Let us learn more about it.



It is a vascular tissue in plants which is primarily involved in conduction of water and minerals.

Furthermore, xylem originates from the Greek word “xylon” meaning wood. It is responsible for providing mechanical strength, storage and long-distance transport of water and nutrients to the plants. The tissue consists of vessels, tracheids, and xylem fibre and xylem parenchyma. Except xylem parenchyma, all elements of xylem are dead, so it is a dead or non-living structure.


It is a vascular tissue in plants which is primarily involved in conduction of organic food.

Also, phloem originates from Greek word “phloios” meaning bark. The main function of phloem is to transport the organic food from eaves to other parts of the plant. It consists of companion cells, sieve tubes, phloem fibres and phloem parenchyma. Except phloem fibres, all elements of phloem are living, so it is a living structure.

Difference between Xylem and Phloem

Xylem and Phloem together constitutes the vascular system. However, there are many differences between them. Let us see the following chart to understand it. Further, we will see the difference in their structures as well.

difference between xylem and phloem
Table showing xylem and phloem differences.

Structure of Xylem and Phloem

Besides the above differences, xylem and phloem also differ in their structures. Now, let us compare the structures of xylem and phloem.

Diagram of xylem
Diagrammatic representation of xylem.
Diagram of phloem
Diagrammatic representation of phloem.

Functions of Xylem and Phloem

As discussed earlier, xylem and phloem are mainly concerned with transportation inside the plant body. In the differences section, we also saw the difference in the functions they perform. Now, we will learn about their functions in detail.

Functions of xylem:

  1. Xylem provides mechanical strength to the plant.
  2. It also provides storage.
  3. It gives strength to organs and tissues, as a result, prevents bending of plants.
  4. Xylem forms the bulk of the plant body.
  5. Plants lose major amount of the water during transpiration and photosynthesis. Xylem is thus, responsible for replacing the amount of lost water.
Diagram xylem and phloem functions
Functions performed by xylem and phloem is transportation of water, minerals and food respectively. The figure above is a diagrammatic representation of it.

Functions of phloem:

  1. It is responsible for transporting sugars from source leaf cells, where photosynthesis occurs and food gets prepared, to other non-photosynthetic parts of the plant like roots, flowers, etc.
  2. It also transports proteins and mRNAs throughout the plant.
  3. Phloem parenchyma has the function of storage and translocation of food.
  4. The companion cells provide energy to sieve tubes for the transport of food.
  5. It is responsible for bidirectional movement of water and food molecules.

Thus, we conclude that even though phloem and xylem carry the similar function of transportation, however, they are very different from each other.

Hope you learnt something new today.

Also, check out our Study Materials for other subjects as well. Happy learning! 🙂

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