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Have you ever wondered how plants survive in areas with very little water? Xerophytes have adapted over thousands of years to live in harsh conditions. This lesson will introduce you to the characteristics that enable xerophytes to survive.

What Are Xerophytes?

Plant life on Earth is nothing if not resilient. Have you ever taken a moment to think about the wide variety of differing habitats that exist on the planet? It’s incredible, and yet from outer space the earth appears just blue and green. How can plants colonize every corner of the globe? Especially in those extremely dry climates.Well, there is a specialized group of plants called xerophytes that survive in very dry regions. Xerophytes can live in these environments because they contain specialized features that help them prevent water loss.

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It’s also worth noting that dry environments are not always hot. People tend to think of deserts being very dry, and they are, but so is Antarctica and it’s bitterly cold. So remember that dry areas can be hot or cold depending on geographic location.

Adaptations

The types of adaptations possessed by xerophytes are extensive! We’ll focus here on broad adaptations shared by several different species. The first adaptation has to do with their stomata and limiting water loss. Stomata are the microscopic openings in leaves that permit gas exchange. Think of them as pores for plants.

And just like human pores release sweat, plant stomata release water in the form of water vapor. Certain xerophytes have a waxy covering over their stomata, thus curbing water loss. Others contain very few stomata, or stomata that only open at night when it’s cooler. Each of these adaptations limits water loss and allows the plant to survive in dry environments.

An example of this type of plant is Adam’s Needle (Yucca filamentosa). This plant can survive in harsh dry desert environments because of its waxy covering.

Adam

The second type of adaptation is focused on storing water instead of just limiting water loss. To do this plants have developed succulent leaves, plant stems, or tubers that can store water when it cannot be obtained directly from the environment.

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dry plants
  • Plant Adaptation: Plant adaptation is the way in which plants are able to survive in various conditions on Earth.
  • Xerophytes: Plants who have developed the ability to adapt to dry regions are called xerophytes.
  • Stomata: Stomata are skin pores for plants that release water vapor.

Learning Outcomes

Ensure that you can accomplish the following goals when you’ve reviewed the lesson on xerophytes:

  • Define xerophytes as plants living in dry humid areas of Earth
  • Discuss the role of stomata in the release of water vapor
  • Recognize the three ways in which xerophytes obtain or keep moisture

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