Rhizome vs. Stolon

What's the Difference?

Rhizome and stolon are both types of plant stems that grow horizontally along the ground. However, there are some key differences between the two. Rhizomes are underground stems that typically grow horizontally and produce roots and shoots at various intervals. They are usually thick and fleshy, storing nutrients for the plant. Stolons, on the other hand, are above-ground stems that also grow horizontally but are typically thinner and more elongated. They produce new plants at the nodes, which are the points where the stolon touches the ground. While both rhizomes and stolons serve as a means of vegetative propagation for plants, rhizomes are more commonly found in perennial plants, while stolons are often seen in annual or herbaceous plants.


Growth PatternHorizontal underground stemHorizontal above-ground stem
LocationUsually found undergroundUsually found above ground
FunctionStores nutrients and aids in vegetative reproductionAids in vegetative reproduction and spreading
StructureThick and fleshyThin and elongated
RootsDevelops roots from nodesDoes not develop roots
ExamplesGinger, bamboo, irisStrawberries, spider plants, mint

Further Detail


When it comes to plant propagation and growth, two important structures that play a significant role are rhizomes and stolons. Both rhizomes and stolons are specialized stems that allow plants to spread horizontally and reproduce asexually. While they share some similarities, they also have distinct characteristics that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the attributes of rhizomes and stolons, highlighting their functions, structures, and examples in the plant kingdom.

Definition and Structure

Rhizomes are underground stems that grow horizontally, typically found in perennial plants. They have nodes and internodes, with nodes being the points where leaves, branches, and roots emerge. Rhizomes can be thick or thin, depending on the plant species, and they often store nutrients and energy reserves. Examples of plants with rhizomes include ginger, bamboo, and iris.

On the other hand, stolons, also known as runners, are above-ground stems that grow horizontally along the soil surface. They have nodes and internodes, similar to rhizomes, but their main function is to produce new plants. Stolons typically have long internodes, allowing the plant to spread and establish new individuals. Examples of plants with stolons include strawberries, spider plants, and Bermuda grass.

Function and Adaptations

Rhizomes serve several important functions in plants. Firstly, they allow for vegetative propagation, enabling plants to reproduce asexually by producing new shoots and roots at the nodes. This ability is particularly advantageous in environments with limited seed dispersal opportunities. Secondly, rhizomes provide a means of storing nutrients and energy reserves, allowing plants to survive adverse conditions such as drought or winter. Lastly, rhizomes help plants colonize new areas by spreading horizontally, forming dense colonies or mats.

Similarly, stolons also serve important functions in plant growth and reproduction. Their main adaptation is the ability to produce new plants at the nodes, allowing for rapid vegetative propagation. This strategy is particularly advantageous in environments with abundant resources and space for expansion. Additionally, stolons help plants colonize new areas by extending horizontally, forming interconnected networks of individuals. This can be seen in plants like strawberry runners, which produce new plantlets along the stolon's length.

Examples in the Plant Kingdom

Both rhizomes and stolons can be found in various plant families across the plant kingdom. Let's explore some examples:


  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale): Ginger is a tropical plant that grows rhizomes extensively. These rhizomes are used in cooking and have medicinal properties.
  • Bamboo (Bambusoideae): Bamboo is a fast-growing grass that spreads through rhizomes. It forms dense thickets and is known for its versatility and strength.
  • Iris (Iris spp.): Irises are flowering plants that have rhizomes. They are known for their beautiful, showy flowers and are popular in gardens.


  • Strawberries (Fragaria spp.): Strawberries produce stolons, or runners, which allow them to spread and produce new plants. This adaptation is beneficial for their cultivation and propagation.
  • Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum): Spider plants produce long stolons with plantlets at their nodes. These plantlets can be easily rooted, making spider plants popular as houseplants.
  • Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon): Bermuda grass spreads through stolons, forming a dense turf. It is commonly used as a lawn grass due to its ability to withstand heavy foot traffic.


Rhizomes and stolons are specialized stems that play crucial roles in plant growth, reproduction, and adaptation. While rhizomes are underground stems that allow plants to spread horizontally and store nutrients, stolons are above-ground stems that facilitate vegetative propagation and colonization. Understanding the attributes of rhizomes and stolons helps us appreciate the diverse strategies plants employ to survive and thrive in different environments. Whether it's the delicious ginger rhizome or the sprawling strawberry runners, these structures contribute to the beauty and resilience of the plant kingdom.

Comparisons may contain inaccurate information about people, places, or facts. Please report any issues.