Structural features of CRs as well as root hydraulic conductance were compared with those of non-contractile roots (NCRs). CRs occurred in 55% of the 73 species examined, including 64% of the agaves and 85% of the yuccas, but in none of the aloes despite the occurrence of CRs in related genera.
The phylogenetic distribution of CRs was consistent with multiple acquisitions or losses of the trait.
The amount of root contraction showed a highly significant negative relationship with mean annual rainfall, although other environmental factors may also be important.
Radial hydraulic conductance of the basal (contractile) zone exceeded that of the midroot zone for CRs; for NCRs, the opposite was true. Thus, CRs in the species examined may provide a mechanism for greater water uptake near the soil surface in regions with limited rainfall.