Difference Wiki

Tracheids vs. Vessels: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 14, 2023
Tracheids are elongated, tapering xylem cells in plants, while vessels are cylindrical tubes formed by stacked cells, aiding in faster water transport.

Key Differences

Tracheids and vessels are vital components in the xylem tissue of vascular plants, responsible for water transport. Tracheids are elongated cells that taper at their ends, having a primary function in supporting the plant and transporting water and minerals. In contrast, vessels, also known as vessel elements, form continuous tubes through the end-to-end connection of individual cells, making the water flow more efficient and faster.
The presence of tracheids is universal in vascular plants, from primitive ferns to advanced flowering plants. Vessels, on the other hand, primarily appear in angiosperms, which are the flowering plants, though a few exceptions exist in other plant groups. This means that while tracheids are common in both gymnosperms and angiosperms, vessels are largely an angiosperm innovation.
The structure of tracheids and vessels differs significantly. Tracheids possess thick walls with pit pairs that facilitate water movement from one cell to another. Vessels, being a series of connected cells, have perforated end walls called perforation plates, allowing water to move freely and swiftly between the connected vessel elements.
While both tracheids and vessels contribute to water transport, their efficiency levels vary. Vessels, with their tube-like structure, facilitate rapid water transport, especially useful in larger plants or those in water-rich environments. Tracheids, while slower in water conveyance, provide structural support and can better handle adverse conditions like drought, as they reduce the risk of air embolisms.
In evolutionary terms, tracheids are ancient and served as a precursor to the evolution of vessels. The advent of vessels in plants represented an evolutionary leap, enabling angiosperms to exploit a wider range of habitats, dominate diverse ecosystems, and eventually become the most diverse group of land plants.

Comparison Chart

Cell Shape

Elongated, tapering cells.
Cylindrical tubes formed by stacked cells.

Presence in Plants

Universal in vascular plants.
Primarily in angiosperms (flowering plants).

Cell Walls

Thick walls with pit pairs.
End walls have perforation plates.


Support and water transport.
Rapid water transport.


Better for drought resistance.
Efficient for water-rich environments.

Tracheids and Vessels Definitions


Cells with thick walls containing pits.
Water moves from one tracheid to another through the pits.


Water-conducting channels formed by connected cells in angiosperms.
The presence of vessels in a plant indicates it's likely an angiosperm.


Water-conducting cells in vascular plants.
The presence of tracheids helps plants manage water transport even under drought conditions.


Tube-like structures in plant xylem composed of stacked vessel elements.
Vessels allow for more efficient water transport in flowering plants.


Cells providing both support and water transport functions.
In gymnosperms, tracheids are the primary water-conducting cells.


Xylem components with perforated end walls.
The perforation plates in vessels enable quick water movement.


Elongated, tapering cells in the xylem tissue of plants.
Tracheids play a role in providing structural support to the plant.


Primary water transport structures in most flowering plants.
Unlike gymnosperms, which rely on tracheids, angiosperms have vessels for rapid water transport.


Ancestral water-conducting cells predating vessels.
Evolutionarily, tracheids appeared before the emergence of vessel elements.


Evolutionary advancement in plants for better water conduction.
The appearance of vessels gave angiosperms an adaptive edge in diverse habitats.


A dead, water-conducting cell in the xylem of vascular plants, having tapered ends and pits in the cell wall but lacking the perforations found in a vessel element.


A hollow utensil, such as a cup, vase, or pitcher, used as a container, especially for liquids.


Plural of tracheid


(Nautical) A craft, especially one larger than a rowboat, designed to navigate on water.


Why do tracheids have thick walls?

Tracheids have thick walls to provide structural support and facilitate water movement through pits.

What are tracheids?

Tracheids are elongated, tapering cells in the xylem tissue responsible for water transport in plants.

Are vessels common in all plants?

No, vessels primarily appear in angiosperms or flowering plants.

What makes water transport faster in vessels?

Vessels have perforation plates, allowing swift water movement between connected vessel elements.

Do tracheids and vessels contain living cells when mature?

No, both tracheids and vessels are made of dead cells when they're mature and functional.

Do all angiosperms have vessels?

While vessels are characteristic of angiosperms, a few exceptions without vessels do exist.

Which provides more structural support: tracheids or vessels?

Tracheids generally provide more structural support compared to vessels.

Can a plant survive without tracheids?

It would be challenging, as tracheids play a dual role in support and water transport.

Are tracheids present in all vascular plants?

Yes, tracheids are found in all vascular plants, from ferns to flowering plants.

Which is older evolutionarily, tracheids or vessels?

Tracheids are evolutionarily older than vessels.

Do gymnosperms have vessels?

Generally, gymnosperms rely on tracheids, but a few exceptions with vessels do exist.

How do tracheids aid plants during drought?

Tracheids, being slower in water conveyance, can better handle drought conditions by reducing the risk of air embolisms.

What are vessels in the context of plants?

Vessels are cylindrical tubes in plant xylem formed by stacked cells, facilitating efficient water transport.

Why are vessels considered an evolutionary advantage?

Vessels enable faster water transport, allowing angiosperms to thrive in diverse habitats.

Are tracheids hollow?

Tracheids are not entirely hollow; they have thick walls with pits for water movement.

Are vessels unique to plants?

In the context of xylem and water transport, yes, but "vessels" can refer to different structures in other organisms.

Why do tracheids taper at the ends?

The tapering helps in overlapping with adjacent cells and facilitates water movement through pits.

Which is more resistant to air embolisms, tracheids or vessels?

Tracheids are generally more resistant to air embolisms than vessels.

How do vessels differ from veins in animals?

Vessels in plants transport water, while veins in animals transport blood.

How do vessels form in plants?

Vessels form by the end-to-end connection of individual vessel elements, creating continuous tubes.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons