The Contractile Roots of Narcissus

May 09, 2024



Photographer: Menashe Davidson  
Summary Author: Menashe Davidson

The development of the root system in bulb plants, like Narcissus (related to daffodils), follows a unique pattern due to their specialized underground storage organ known as a bulb. Narcissus bulbs often exhibit strong root growth before the emergence of leaves that appear tangled and thickened. Note the white roots close to the sides of the growing container. 

Curiosity pushed me to follow the growth of narcissus bulbs I produced in my home garden in March 2023 and replanted in November 2023. Some of these bulbs were planted in small pots with an opening at the bottom for drainage needs, intended to be transplanted later into larger growing containers. The first roots, originated from the basal plate of the bulb, are known as contractile roots. These specialized roots have a unique function of pulling the bulb deeper into the soil as the plant grows. They contract longitudinally, exerting a downward force on the basal plate of the bulb, causing it to descend deeper into the ground. This action protects it from temperature fluctuations and provides greater stability. From past experience I now know that when I go to dig and divide my Narcissus bulbs and initially can't find them, I need to dig deeper.

Rishon Lezion, Israel Coordinates: 31.95, 34.80

Related Links:
Narcissus and Cyclamen
Root Systems