How to Distinguish Between Vascular & Nonvascular Plants


Vascular and non-vascular plants occupy very different niches in the natural world, and their physical makeup plays a major role in defining their size, characteristics and function. Vascular plants tend to be larger, whereas non-vascular plants are much smaller and grow in specific ways and areas. The ability to tell the difference between a vascular and non-vascular plant is important when you study plant life. Looking for distinguishing characteristics between the two types of plants will require plant samples, as well as information on or images of the plant from which you got the samples.

Step 1

Place the plant samples on microscope slides. Examine the slides under the microscope. Look for distinguishing characteristics of vascular and non-vascular plants.

Step 2

Write a list of the differences between the cells of vascular and non-vascular plants. Keep in mind that vascular plants have tubes that transport water between various parts of the plant; non-vascular plants do not.

Step 3

Examine the plants. Keep in mind the differences between the size and physical appearance of vascular and non-vascular plants.

Step 4

Look at the plants and plant samples you have taken. Vascular plants tend to be tall, leafy plants. Non-vascular plants have no roots, stems or leaves.

Step 5

Compare the plant samples and determine which type of plant they came from.

Things You'll Need

  • Plant samples
  • Microscope
  • Microscope slides
  • Plant images


  • Saskschools: Vascular and Non-Vascular Plants
  • Vascular Plants: Introduction

Who Can Help

  • Botany: Vascular and Non-Vascular Plants
Keywords: vascular plants, non-vascular plants, how to tell the difference between vascular and non-vascular plants

About this Author

Bailey Shoemaker Richards is a writer from Ohio. She writes as the Cleveland Literature Examiner, produces a monthly column for her local newspaper and writes extensively online and off; Shoemaker Richards has been writing for more than 10 years. She has also been published in "The North Central Review." She is currently pursuing a creative writing degree at Ohio University.