The shoots and roots of plants increase in length through rapid cell division within a tissue called the apical meristem (Figure 14.5). The apical meristem is a cap of cells at the shoot tip or root tip made of undifferentiated cells that continue to proliferate throughout the life of the plant. Meristematic cells give rise to all the specialized tissues of the plant. Elongation of the shoots and roots allows a plant to access additional space and resources: light in the case of the shoot, and water and minerals in the case of roots. A separate meristem, called the lateral meristem, produces cells that increase the diameter of stems and tree trunks. Apical meristems are an adaptation to allow vascular plants to grow in directions essential to their survival: upward to greater availability of sunlight, and downward into the soil to obtain water and essential minerals.
Figure 14.5 This apple seedling is an example of a plant in which the apical meristem gives rise to new shoots and root growth.