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Xylem and Phloem

Difference between Xylem and Phloem. Learn more about plant cells and their types; Difference, structure, function, cells, cell wall, composition, FAQs of xylem and phloem.

Eukaryotic cells that vary in basic functions and structure are called Plant cells. They are the unit structural component of plants. Plant cells are photosynthetic in nature and prepare their own food from the available natural resources. The plant cell is composed of a cell wall, cell membrane, vesicles, ribosome, nucleus, cytoplasm, peroxisome, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi vesicles, vacuoles and other basic elements. The organelles of the cell work in a union that results in the growth and development of plants. Nutrients supplied to every cell are required for the plant to aid photosynthesis. This transport of nutrition in plants is facilitated by the vascular system. The vascular system is composed of fibrous networks that carry nutrients from one point to another. This vascular system is classified into two types. They are Xylem and Phloem.


  • Definition

Xylem, which is a complex tissue, belongs to the vascular system of plants. Xylem plays a vital role in the transportation of water and minerals in dissolved form to different parts of the plant. This also provides support to the plant by forming a woody cover on the outer ring of the stem. It provides the nutrient in the upward direction from the root to other parts of the plant. 

  • Components and functions

The Xylem cells are composed of four different types of cells. They are:

  1. Tracheids: These are elongated cells that play an important role in water and mineral transportation. The cells receive mechanical support from the tracheids. It is a conductive and lignified cell called tracheary elements. They are dead cells. 
  2. Vessels: It is known by multiple names like xylem vessels, trachea vessels, vessel elements or vessel members. Water conduction is facilitated in plants by vessel elements. It is present only in flowering plants and absent in non-flowering plants. Each element of the vessel is connected by a perforated plate.
  3. Xylem parenchyma: It plays a key role in the storage of fats and carbohydrates. It is also involved in water passage. These are the only cells that are alive in the xylem. They are composed of thin cell walls and contain huge vacuoles, nucleus and protoplast. 
  4. Xylem sclerenchyma: They are dead cells that are fibrous in nature. They lack protoplast. They lie between the tracheids and xylem vessels. These are narrow cells and are elongated. Their walls are composed of lignin. 


  • Definition

Phloem, which is also a complex tissue, belongs to the vascular system of plants. It transports organic compounds that are formed during photosynthesis to other parts of the plants. This transports the carbohydrates produced through the sieve elements. It plays a vital role in storing water, carbohydrates and proteins. It aids in nutrient transport in the downward direction. 

  • Components and functions

The Phloem cells are composed of four different types of elements. They are:

  1. Sieve tubes: They play a chief role in the transportation of nutrients. Enhancement in their specialisation has resulted in the loss of nuclei and other cell components. They are highly dependent on parenchyma cells for their function and activity. 
  2. Companion cells: They are specialised parenchyma cells. They have a nucleus along with other cell organelles like ribosome, plastid and mitochondria. They are metabolically active and thus possess a large nucleus. 
  3. Phloem parenchyma: These are also called transfer cells. They are present on the terminal ends of branches, veins of leaves and stems. They play a primary function in the transportation of food. They are the storehouse of latex, resin and mucilage. 
  4. Phloem fibres: The fibres of the phloem are narrow, contain thick walls and are elongated. It is widely spread in both primary phloem and secondary phloem. Transportation of sugars is facilitated by this.

Difference between Xylem and Phloem

The below table gives a detailed description of the differences between Xylem and Phloem:





Carries water from the root to other parts of the plant

Carries food from leaves to other parts of the plant


Present in roots, stems, leaves

Present in leaves and stems


Dead cells

Live cells




Cell wall thickness



Cell wall composition



Cell Permeability

Permeable to water

Permeable to food








Centre of vascular bundles

Outside vascular bundles





Provides mechanical support

Does not provide mechanical support


It is composed of four types of cells which are

  • Tracheids
  • Vessels
  • Xylem parenchyma
  • Xylem sclerenchyma

It is composed of four types of cells which are

  • Sieve tubes
  • Companion cells
  • Phloem parenchyma
  • Phloem fibres


Xylem and Phloem play an integral part in the functioning and development of plants. They provide support to the plants, aid in the transportation of minerals to different parts of the plants, and store starch, fats and water within for usage. 


Frequently asked questions

Get answers to the most common queries related to the NEET UG Examination Preparation.

Why are xylem composed of dead cells?

Answer: Xylem vessels are made up of dead cells because this adaptation aids in the proper transportation of ...Read full

In which plant is xylem is absent?

Answer: Xylem is absent in non-vascular plants like mosses. Mosses account for about 12,000 species and belon...Read full

What is transported by Phloem?

Answer: Phloem transports soluble organic compounds like sugars, amino acids, and other carbohydrat...Read full

What is the location of presence of xylem?

Answer: Xylem are located on the roots, leaves and stems of the plant to complete its task to transport water...Read full