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Does Tree With Breathing Root Exists? Let’s Find Out!

The idea of a tree with breathing roots may seem just out of a fairy tale, but to get a glimpse, you must travel to areas where moisture resides in the soil.

Generally, a tree with breathing roots exists, and these specialized roots are called breathing roots or ‘Pneumatophores.’ These plants adapt to waterlogged, saline, or clayey soil, where these roots allow them to take in oxygen from the air.

Let’s learn more about the trees with breathing roots and how they adapt to extreme situations. 

What Are Breathing Roots?

Breathing roots are special upright roots that grow above ground to evade drowning or flooding water levels.

These roots are present in plants that grow mostly in places with extremely saturated soil, such as coastal shores and wetlands.

Further, breathing roots are also known as ‘Pneumatophores,’ and these roots grow against the force of gravity (negatively geotropic).

In wetlands and coastal areas, brackish, salt, or freshwater frequently saturates the soil due to tidal shifts.

Hence, these roots, acting as snorkels, allow the plants to exchange breathable air in oxygen-poor environments.

Image illustrates developed Breathing Roots of Mangrove Plants
Breathing Roots are special roots of Mangrove Plants, allowing them to adapt in low oxygenated environments.

Structure Of Breathing Roots

Usually, Breathing Roots are visually either erect or knotted.

When erect, these roots have a shape like a peg or a pencil, while they may get knee-shape if they attain a creeping habit.

  • Externally, Pneumatophores have numerous minute holes or ‘lenticles’ for the entry of oxygenated air.
  • However, internally, these roots have layers of spongy tissues to absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

Challenges That Plants With Breathing Roots Face

The plants equipped with breathing roots face a number of challenges in their respective habitats.

  • Due to the low porosity of the substrate, the soil becomes waterlogged, due to which the roots may rot.
  • In coastal areas, the soil and water can become saline, which can be harmful to the normal roots of these plants.
  • Soggy soil lacks aeration, which may harm the plants in marshy or swampy areas.

Examples Of Plants With Breathing Roots

Breathing Roots are adaptive features of plants that live in swampy and oxygen-poor habitats.

Hence, the feature of breathing roots limit to only a few hydrophytic plant species.

1. Mangroves

Mangroves are plants that prefer to inhabit the world’s moist tropical to sub-tropical coastal regions.

Since the clayey soil in coastal areas is saturated with water, it’s difficult for oxygen to enter through the roots. 

Hence, the roots rise up or knot to get loftier ground above the soil and form Pneumatophores or breathing roots.

Do You Know?

Breathing roots are only present in a few of the Mangrove species, such as White Mangroves, Black Mangroves, Grey Mangroves, and Red Mangroves.

2. Bald Cypress

Bald Cypress is native to the temperate swampy areas of the USA.

In such areas, the soil accumulates murky water, making it difficult for the tree roots to absorb oxygen.

So, the roots grow just below the soil, and they knot to form knee-like structures that ascend above.

Image illustrates the Pneumatophores of Mangroves
Pneumatophores have plenty of lenticles that allow gaseous exchange.

3. Tupelo Gum

Tupelo Gum trees originate from the temperate swampy areas of Central and Southeast USA.

These swampy areas remain under the water most of the year, so the soil becomes oxygen-poor.

Hence, the Tupelo Tree has upright biforked breathing roots above the soil, aiding them to grab oxygen from the air.

From Editorial Team


Plants with breathing roots cannot survive outside their natural habitats. Hence, the destruction of the habitats creates pressure on their population.

So, if you ever wander for a visit within the cove of these plants, try not to disturb their breathing roots and harm them in any way.