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ZingPath: Plant Structure and Function

Plant Survival: The Xeroscape Garden

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Plant Structure and Function

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Lesson Focus

Plant Survival: The Xeroscape Garden


Learning Made Easy

You will determine the specialized stem, leaf, and root adaptations of dry environment plants by designing a garden using a simulator.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Define transpiration as the evaporation of water from a plant.
  • Explain that plant parts are specialized adaptations for the particular environments in which they live.
  • Explain the differences between fibrous and tap root systems.
  • Identify plants well suited to dry environments based on their appearance.
  • Explain why many dry-environment plants have succulent stems and spiny leaves.

Everything You'll Have Covered

There are hundreds of thousands of different types of plants on the planet. The reason for this immense diversity is their adaptations to the particular environments in which they live. As with any organism, there are many different types of adaptations that plants have to make them well suited to a particular environment. The main plant parts (roots, stems, and leaves) are rich in adaptations.

Dry environments can be particularly difficult for plants to survive. Due to the lack of water, plants in these types of environments must be able to get whatever water is available easily and then store that water for the long periods of time when water is unavailable. For this reason, many plants in dry environments have succulent stems, fibrous roots, and spiny leaves. Succulent stems are good for plants in dry environments because they are excellent at storing water. Fibrous root systems can also be advantageous because they are able to get water quickly and easily when there is rain. In addition, fibrous roots can help hold the soil in place. This is important for plants that live in dry environments where flash flooding frequently occurs when it rains.

One major problem for plants in dry environments is transpiration-evaporation of water from plants. Wide-bladed leaves have many stomata (openings for gas exchange), and thus transpiration is enhanced. This feature would be extremely detrimental to plants living in dry environments. Plants in dry areas have adapted small spiny leaves. The spiny leaves are also a deterrent for animals looking for food and moisture. All of these adaptations make the plants well suited to their particular environment-in this case, a dry environment.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 20 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Students should be familiar with environments and plant parts.
Course Biology
Type of Tutorial Concept Development
Key Vocabulary adaptations, arid, cactus