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Adaptations in Plants

Biology | 7-14 yrs | Interactive

What is adaptations in plants?

Plants adapt or adjust to their surroundings. This helps them to live and grow. A particular place or a specific habitat calls for specific conditions and adapting to such conditions helps the plants to survive. This is the reason why certain plants are found in certain areas. You would not see a cactus growing in Iceland nor would you see tall trees in grasslands. A tree that lives in the rainforest would die in a desert area. A cactus that lives in the deserts would not survive in a water lily pad. Thus plants adapt to their surroundings and climates. If the habitat changes drastically the plant species must adapt, otherwise they would not survive.

Adaptations of plants in different habitats

1. Plant adaptations in the desert

The desert is a dry area with scarcity of waters thus the plants there have small leaves and many spines which help them to conserve water. The leaves have thick waxy skins which help to retain water for a long time. There are leafless plants that store water in their green stems. Roots are near the soil surfaces that soak up water before it evaporates. The growth is slow as the plants do not have to make much food.

Example: different types of Cactus, Joshua tree etc.

2. Plant adaptations in the tropical rainforest

Such places have hot climate but have heavy rains. So the plants here have drip tips and waxy surfaces on leaves to shed the excess water. Plants have prop roots that help support them in the shallow soils. There is abundance growth of plants and some plants grow on top of the other to reach the sunlight. These plants collect rainwater through a central reservoir and have hair on them to absorb water.

Example: Bromeliads, lianas, different rainforest trees etc.

3. Plant adaptations in the temperate forests

Such forests see four distinct seasons and have harsh winters. These forests are made of layers of plants from very tall trees to small plants carpeting the forest floors. Wild flowers grow in the forest floors during spring. Most big trees here have thick barks to protect them against the cold winters. Trees have broad leaves that capture a lot of sunlight. But these leaves can weigh down the trees in winters thus in the autumn deciduous trees drop their leaves to minimize the water loss.

Example: Lichen, moss, ferns, etc.

4. Plant adaptations in the grasslands

These are also called prairies and have hot summers and cold winters with uncertain rains and many droughts. The plants here have deep roots to survive the prairie fires. Some trees have thick barks to survive the fires. Roots extend deep into the ground to absorb water. They have narrow leaves as these lose less water. Soft stems enable the prairie grass to bend in the wind.
Example: buffalo grass, needle grass, foxtail etc.

5. Plant adaptations in water

There are some floating plants that are found in water bodies. They have floating leaves in which chlorophyll is restricted only on the top surface which is green in colour. Beneath is the reddish colour of the leaves. Underwater leaves and stems help plants to move with the current. Roots and root hair are absent as there is no need to absorb water. Underwater plants have leaves with large air pockets to absorb oxygen from water. Some plants produce floating seeds as well.

Example: water lily, lotus, duckweed, giant salvinia etc.

Related Article:  Learn more about the major types of biomes on earth.