Stem vs. Trunk

Main Difference

Stem and trunk, both are parts of a tree. They are used interchangeably by many botanists of the world. The main difference between stem and trunk is, trunk forms the main structure of the tree which serves as a great support to the whole tree. Stem is known to support the branches of the trees. Trunk also supports the branches and is itself supported by roots of a tree.


stemA stem is one of the main structures of a vascular plant. Stem is actually used when we refer to a plant. Stem of a plant is a straw like structure where flowers are grown. Stem is suppose to support the buds, leaves, fruits and many other parts of a plant, it also helps in transportation of nutrition across the whole plant. Plant receives water, minerals and sugars via stems. Stem is also attached to the main trunk. Moreover, stem also bring leaves directly into the sunlight, helping the leaves to make food for them via the process of photosynthesis. Stem has three main parts which are, xylem, phloem and cambium. The main function of phloem is to carry food to the whole plant, which is made by the process of photosynthesis and xylem carries water through the entire length of plant.


trunkTrunk is attached to the roots of a tree. Trunk is covered by bark and it does not have leaves sticking out of it. Trunk is also known as bole and is the main supporting structure of the trees. It carries the whole tree canopy. Trunk has rings inside which are known to predict the age of a certain tree, when it is cut. Trunk is very useful as lumber and is also used in making wooden furniture. Many utensils are made from wood, too. Construction work also requires wood and it is also used for decorative purpose.

Key Differences

  • Trunk is the main supporting structure of a tree which is attached to roots, while stem is not.
  • Leaves do not stick out of trunk while they do stick out of the stems.
  • We use the word ‘stem’ basically for plants and the word ‘trunk’ is used for trees specifically.
  • Stem serves to hold leaves and flowers.
  • Stem has many types while a trunk has only one type.
  • Trunk has lines on it, when it is cut and these lines reflect the age of a certain tree.
  • Stems do not have a surrounding bark unlike trunk.

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