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I remember from ancient history they used huge water tanks under buildings whenever it rained, and was wondering if that's the same principle for plants growing tubers.

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  • ancient... It in the place you live, you don't have a municipal big reservoir, probably you still have some water tanks. The big underwater tanks were build to protect population from sieges, which it is a different story. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 10:16

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Food and moisture storage. Potatoes are storing starch surfaced with a protective skin containing growth nodes (eyes) in an underground root swelling. This is in order that the potato will have plenty of resources to regrow the next year with a fair burst of growth that will put its leaves well above the surrounding vegetation. In potatoes, the primary function is for food storage.

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Tubers serve usually as method to survive unfavorable seasons (winter, summer, or both), protecting some part of the plant, so that it can growth back later.

Water tanks is done in steam (less energy to conquer some volume), see Cactuses, Stonecrops (Sedum).

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  • What about drought? Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 0:17
  • @blackthumb Some plants on dry climate will go in a "sleepy" state (analog as winter in plants on colder climate), so leaves will fall, and only trunk (or tuber) will pass the summer. Note: such plants have also less competition on summer. Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 11:58

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