Adaptations of desert plants

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The impression that the desert environment is hostile is strictly an outsider’s viewpoint. Adaptation enables indigenous organisms not merely to survive here, but to thrive. Furthermore, specialized adaptations often result in a requirement for the seasonal drought and heat. For example, the saguaro, well adapted to its subtropical desert habitat, cannot survive in a rain forest or in any other biome, not even a cold desert. In these other places it would rot, freeze, or be shaded out by faster growing plants.

Aridity is the major—and almost the only—environmental factor that creates a desert, and it is this functional water deficit that serves as the primary limitation to which desert organisms must adapt. Desert plants survive the long rainless periods with three main adaptive strategies: succulence, drought tolerance, and drought evasion. Each of these is a different but effective suite of adaptations for prospering under conditions that would kill plants from other regions.

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