Root Hair Cells

Root hair cells are a type of specialised cell found in the roots of plants. A root hair cell has a long structure sticking out of it. This structure looks like a hair and is therefore called a root hair. A plant's root hairs stick out into the soil from the main body of the root.

Microscope image of a plant root. The image is a slice through the root (a transverse section). Only part of the root is visible within the frame of the image. The cell wall of each individual cell can be seen. No cell contents are visible within the cells. One cell has a long thin extension that sticks out from the root. This is a root hair and the cell that has it is a root hair cell.

Microscope image of a plant root. A root hair cell can be seen sticking out of the root.

The function of a root hair cell is to absorb water and mineral ions from the soil.

Root hair cells absorb water through a process called osmosis and mineral ions through a process called active transport. These processes will be covered later in the course.

Adaptations of root hair cells

A diagram of a root hair cell is shown below:

Diagram of a root hair cell. The cell is roughly rectangular, but it has a hair-like extension sticking out to the right. It has several mitochondria, a large vacuole and a thin cell wall. All of these structural features are labelled.

A root hair cell

The adaptations of root hair cells include the following:

AdaptationHow it enables a root hair cell to carry out its function of absorbing water and mineral ions.
A root hair (long, hair-like structure) sticking out into the soil.Greatly increases the surface area for the absorption of water and mineral ions.
A thin cell wall.Reduces the distance that water and mineral ions have to travel to enter the cell, which enables them to be absorbed more quickly.
A large vacuole.Enables the cell to store the water that it absorbs.
A large number of mitochondria.The many mitochondria carry out aerobic respiration to release energy from food molecules. This energy is used to actively transport mineral ions into the cell.


Flashcards help you memorise information quickly. Copy each question onto its own flashcard and then write the answer on the other side. Testing yourself on these regularly will enable you to learn much more quickly than just reading and making notes.


What is the function of a root hair cell?


What adaptations does a root hair cell have that enable it to carry out its function?


How does the root hair enable the root hair cell to carry out its function?


How does having a thin cell wall enable a root hair cell to carry out its function?


How does having a large vacuole enable a root hair cell to carry out its function?


How does having many mitochondria enable a root hair cell to carry out its function?


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