Tuber: a reserve organ not to be confused with a bulb

Nearly 3,000 tubers are consumed worldwide, with potatoes, cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, and taro in order of importance.

What is a tuber?

A tuber is a fleshy organ born from stem or root swelling, generally underground or on the surface. Contains stores of nutrients such as starch. Its shape is very variable, from a spindle in a carrot or dahlia to a pancake in a potato, including a more or less bumpy or elongated ball in a potato, etc.

This authority allows:

  • survival of a withered plant in periods of cold or drought, thanks to buds on the surface capable of reforming the stem and new roots as soon as the environment is favorable. Tubers sensitive to strong winters (canna) can be pulled out in November and stored in a dry place protected from frost (in sand or shavings). Tuberous vegetables can be stored in a silo until consumption.
  • PUSH vegetative propagation plants by separating the tubers or cutting out part of the tuber provided it has at least one eye (bud). Tiger lily aerial bulbils (Lilium lancifolium) are also tubers, for example.

What are tuberous plants?


Tubers are well represented in many plants grown in the garden, both for ornamental purposes and in the vegetable garden! Here is an incomplete list:

  • swollen roots in carrots, turnips, radishes, beets;
  • tuberous underground stems of potato, Japanese crosnes, Jerusalem artichoke, earthen pear, Peruvian oky, garden iris;
  • the swollen stem base of kohlrabi, celery, etc.

What is the difference between a tuber and a bulb?

Tubers are often included in the “bulb” family though a bulb in the strict and botanical sense of the term comes from a swelling of leaves piled above a short stalk (plateau) like an onion.

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