Plants & Human Affairs
Cherries.wmf (7140 bytes) Plants & Human Affairs (BIOL106)  -  Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

Private Lives of Plants #6:  It's a Jungle Out There

Overview:   In order to survive in various habitats, from the arctic to the equator or from mountain top to sea level, plants have evolved adaptations to help insure their survival.  This video highlights some of these relationships.

Arctic/Alpine Survival: 

  1. Arctic and alpine regions are rough places for a plant to make a living.  There is little available moisture, soil nutrients, light and  warmth and the ever-present wind buffets plants. To survive, plants have evolved some of the following adaptations. Explain how each of the following helps the plant survive.

  1. Short stature (e.g., most wildflowers, arctic willow)

  2. Rosettes of leaves

  3. Solar tracking (e.g., arctic poppy)

  4. Cushion-like growth form (esp. in alpine plants in Tasmania & New Zealand)

  5. Dense hairs covering the plant (e.g., vegetable sheep, giant lobelia)

  6. Retaining old, dead leaves (e.g., tree groundsel)

  7. Leaves folding up at night (e.g., cabbage groundsel)

  1. What is frost heaving?  How do some mosses deal with this problem?

Desert Survival

  1. Lack of water and high temperatures are just two problems that perennial desert species must contend with.  For each of the following, identify at least one adaptation that they have evolved to survive in desert conditions.

  1. Cactus (e.g., saguaro)

  2. Quiver plant (from Namib Desert; hints:  "self amputation" and white powder)

  3. Window Plant (from Namib Desert; Conophytum)

  1. How does the survival strategy of desert annual plants differ from perennials?  What are some strategies annual plants use?


  2. In contrast to their relatively drab environment, the flowers of desert species are often spectacularly colored.  Offer an explanation.

Mount Roraima - Venezuela  -  These equatorial tabletop mountains have evolved a highly unique flora (endemic) including many carnivorous plants. 

  1. Explain why carnivorous plants evolved in this area?


  2. Carnivorous Plant Matching:  Match each of the following with the appropriate plant:
            a.  bladderwort    b.  pitcher plant    c.  sundew

______ aquatic
______ pitfall type trap
______ lives in pools formed by bromeliad leaves
______ flypaper type trap
______ insect sucked into a chamber
______ tubular leaves filled with digestive enzymes
______ leaves covered with tentacles with sticky droplets

Amazon Water Lily - the flowering behavior of this plant is amazing.  Explain why the flowers open for 24 hours, then close, then open again followed by a permanent closing.


Coastal Plants:  Red mangroves have a variety of adaptations to survive at the edge of the ocean.  For each of the following, describe the survival value.

  1. Prop/stilt roots

  2. Upright "snorkel" roots

  3. Seed germinates while still attached to mother plant


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Last updated:  11/15/2005 / � Copyright  by SG Saupe