Find out about the special features some plants have, which allow them to survive in their habitats.
How have plants become adapted?
Through the process of evolution, plants have developed special features to help them survive in different situations. These special features make a particular species well-adapted to its habitat and the potential hazards within it. These adaptive traits may be structural (physical features of the plant, such as the shape of the leaves) or physiological (adaptations that allow the plant to bend towards the light, or fold up when touched for example).
- The sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) has leaves that fold up when touched, which is thought to act as a defence against herbivores that may otherwise feed on the plant.
- With modified leaves that snap shut when triggered by insects touching tiny hairs inside, the Venus flytrap (Dionea muscipula) is well-adapted to catch insect prey.
- Many cacti have special features that allow them to grow in areas where there is infrequent rainfall. The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea), for example, has roots that spread outwards to allow it to take up water quickly and it can store water in its trunk and branches.
- With leaves that capture moisture from sea fogs and long taproots that search out any underground water, tree tumbo (Welwitschia mirabilis) is well-adapted to the harsh arid environment of the Namib Desert.
- Of the many mangrove species, red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) grows closest to the sea and has stilt (or prop) roots which can withstand total submersion in salt water and the action of tidal waves.
Find out more
Below are more examples of plants that have adaptive traits allowing them to survive in their environments. Click on the images to find out more.
red dragon tree
fanged pitcher plant
Robert Cantley’s pitcher plant
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