The formation of a massive body naturally involves the localization of the absorptive region, and the function of absorption (which in the simpler forms is carried out by the whole of the vegetative part of the mycelium penetrating a solid or immersed in a liquid substratum) is subserved by the outgrowth of the hyphae of the surface-layer of that region into rhizoids, which, like those of the Algae living on soil, resemble the root-hairs of the higher plants.
If the axis of such a sporogonium were prolonged downwards into the soil to form a fixing and absorptive root, the whole structure would become a physiologically independent plant, exhibiting in many though by no means all respects the leading features of the sporophyte or ordinary vegetative and spore-bearing individual in Ptericlophytes and Phanerogams. These facts, among others, have led to the theory, plausible in some respects, of the origin of this sporophyte by descent from an Anthoceros-like sporogonium (see PTERIDOPHYTA).
In the more highly developed series, the mosses, this last division of labor takes the form of the differentiation of special assimilative organs, the leaves, commonly with a midrib containing elongated cells for the ready removal of the products of assimilation; and in the typical forms with a localized absorptive region, a well-developed hydrom in the axis of the plant, as well as similar hydrom strands in the leaf-midribs, are constantly met with.
The root differs from the shoot in the characters of its surface tissues, in the absence of the green assimilative pigment chlorophyll, in the arrangement of its vascular system and in the mode of growth at the apex, all features which are in direct relation to its normally subterranean life and its fixative and absorptive functions.
In the typically submerged Alg~ and in submerged plants of every group this is the absorptive and the main.