Plants can be separated into two distinct categories: monocots and dicots. What makes the two types different and why is it important to understand which is which?
Monocot vs. Dicot
The big difference that most people note about monocots and dicots is the formation of the plants' veins on leaves. However, there are many different things that separate monocots from dicots. In fact, monocots differ from dicots in four structural features: their leaves, stems, roots and flowers.
Within the seed lies the plant's embryo; it is here that the first difference between the two types can be seen. Whereas monocots have one cotyledon (vein), dicots have two. This small difference at the very start of the plant's life cycle leads each plant to develop vast differences.
Once the embryo begins to grow its roots, another structural difference occurs. Monocots tend to have "fibrous roots" that web off in many directions. These fibrous roots occupy the upper level of the soil in comparison to dicot root structures that dig deeper and create thicker systems. Dicot roots also contain one main root called the taproot, where the other, smaller roots branch off. The roots are essential to the plant's growth and survival, therefore encouraging a deeper and more extensive root system that can help increase the health of the plant.
As the monocots develop, their stems arrange the vascular tissue (the circulatory system of the plant) sporadically. This is extremely unique compared to dicots' organized fashion that arranges the tissue into a donut-looking structure (see figure). The way a stem develops is important to note. Stems are in charge of supporting the entire plant and help position it to reach as much sunlight as possible. The vascular tissue within the stem can be thought of as a circulatory system for bringing nutrients to each portion of the plant.
The differences don't end there. Both monocots and dicots form different leaves. Monocot leaves are characterized by their parallel veins, while dicots form "branching veins." Leaves are another important structure of the plant because they are in charge of feeding the plant and carrying out the process of photosynthesis.
The last distinct difference between monocots and dicots are their flowers (if present). Monocot flowers usually form in threes whereas dicot flowers occur in groups of four or five.