Cactus tubercles and ribs play an important role in water storage and retention, as they allow the stem to expand to increase the volume of moisture it can hold without stretching or bruising and then retract as the stem loses water, which minimizes the amount of surface area that’s exposed to direct sunlight. So desert cacti have addressed this water loss by eliminating leaves altogether and moving the job of conducting photosynthesis to their thick stems, where the exposure to the atmosphere of tissues holding the water needed for photosynthesis is minimized. In addition, they act as true “bellows” allowing the plant to expand when it absorbs liquid. As the rains in the places where cacti usually grow are very sporadic, these plants find it necessary to store a large amount of liquid in their stems, which they can resort to in dry periods. Cacti are intriguing plants that sometimes seem like they are from another world. That means they can absorb quite an amount of water within the shortest time. Thus, for example, the roots of a 15 m tall saguaro can extend up to more than 20 m away from the stem. There are two features of desert cactus roots that give them the ability to do this. While other desert plants may have similar features such as spines and succulent stems, these evolutionary traits reach a zenith in the cactus.Cactus take advantage of the lightest rainfall by having roots close to the soil surface. Most cacti have spherical or columnar stems, which give them greater volume with less surface exposure to air. I hope you have enjoyed this look into the amazing cactus adaptations that help these plants survive in desert environments. A waxy coating on the stem and pads helps to reduce water loss. Pictured above is the mother-in-law's cushion or golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii). Surprisingly, cactus spines actually play several very important roles in helping the plant conserve water and protect itself from the harsh effects of the sun – and they even help collect moisture, too! The spine clusters they produce may have central and radial spines as well as different types of spines, often including many small hairs or the tiny, vicious, barbed spines known as glochids. One of the most striking cactus adaptations is their lack of leaves. When it does rain, it comes in short bursts. However, this alone was not sufficient; cacti with only these adaptations appear to do very little photosynthesis in their stems. The stems of cacti often have a waxy coating, or cuticle, that helps retain moisture inside the plant. They have spongy roots and leaves so they can hold the water they get and save it for later. Cactus adaptations Plant adaptations in desert ID: 1261339 Language: English School subject: Science Grade/level: grade4 Age: 7-12 Main content: Adaptations Other contents: Plant adaptation Add to my workbooks (15) Download file pdf Embed in my website or blog Add to Google Classroom Note that not all cacti are desert cacti, as there is a group of cacti known as jungle cacti that grow in tropical rainforests, which includes the Christmas cactus, epiphytic cacti such as Rhipsalis, and the night-blooming Hylocereus. Bat pollination is not very common among flowering plants. In addition to warding off herbivores, desert plants also need to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun, which include sunburn damage to the outer surface from light that’s too intense, chlorophyll bleaching, permanent damage to the plant’s DNA, rapid dehydration, and overheating to the point that the plant cells are essential being cooked by the sun. A 1 tonne specimen of this cactus is capable of weighing up to 10 tons after a storm, which has absorbed about 9,000 liters of water. Learn more about why cacti have spines here. Cacti have reduced their leaves to spines to reduce water loss and to protect the cactus. Stems in cactus are comparatively thicker than other plants, hence it is … Mooney, S.L. The problem for plants trying to survive in hot, arid climates, where water evaporates quickly, is that when their stomata open to facilitate photosynthesis, water vapor escapes. In fact, there are different types of cactus spines, and some of them don’t have a deterrent function at all. Now some may argue that it’s not really correct to say that cacti have no leaves because spines are actually modified leaves. The cactus only open stomata at night, to avoid dehydration. It provides information about desert plant adaptations.Use this desert poster resource to teach your pupils about how cacti and succulent plants that thrive in the desert. The reason of this difference is that the habitat of the cactus is the desert while a plant with leaves has humid and fair climates. Cacti expel oxygen into the atmosphere and absorb carbon dioxide, which remains in the form of acid (usually malic acid) until the next morning when the plant, in the presence of sunlight, will perform the chlorophyll function and extract the carbon dioxide from the acid to transform it into sugar. Why are cacti so juicy? Desert cacti live in arid regions that get very little precipitation. What happens when the desert blooms? They’re shallow and widespread to take advantage of any light rains in the desert. These spines come in many shapes and sizes. CAM photosynthesis allows the plant to open its stomata at night, when temperatures are cooler and the evaporation rate of water is lower. They may be covered with protuberances known as tubercles, or the tubercles may be lined up and fused together to form ribs. There are many adaptations that the pancake prickly pear cactus has to the Sonoran Desert. The primary reason why cacti survive in that ecosystem is because of their numerous adaptations, which include: The leaves of this plant are reduced to needle-like structures referred to as spines that limit … Cacti make use of many structural adaptations, such as shallow roots, fixed spines and thick stems, to survive in the desert where there is minimal rainfall. Why Does My Ponytail Palm Have Brown Tips? A cactus plant is forced to adapt to live in the hot, dry conditions of the desert. The plant stores the carbon dioxide it takes up in the form of malic acid, so that during daylight hours, it can carry out photosynthesis with the stored carbon dioxide and the stomata can remain closed. But cacti have a high proportion of species that strive to attract bats, which can travel considerable distances between sparse populations of cacti in desert and semi-desert environments. What survival tricks keep a desert cactus or a horned lizard alive? By breaking up the airflow, spines create a layer of air – or what could be called a microclimate – that serves as insulation against changes in temperature as well as accelerated evaporation brought on by hot air or wind. This process is called CAM (for its acronym Crassulacean Acid Metabolism), because it was observed for the first time with the crassulaceae. And this cortical layer further differs from the cortex of other types of succulents in its ability to transfer water and plant sugars produced by photosynthesis due to vascular tissue that is distributed throughout it. In addition to switching the primary location for photosynthesis from leaves to their stems, cacti (along with many other succulents) have adopted a method of conducting photosynthesis that’s different from the norm called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism, or CAM photosynthesis. This efficiency in transference is what allows cactus stems to become so large in diameter and thus store larger volumes of water. This adaptation is what gives them their main characteristics. In addition, surface roots could also take advantage of condensed water at ground level (dew). © 2021 Succulent Alley. Different types of cacti produce various types of flowers depending on what kind of pollinators they are trying to attract. And the reason for this change is, once again, to minimize the loss of moisture through stomata. Desert Cactus; Universities; Adams State University; Akron, The University of; Alabama A&M University; Alabama at Birmingham, University of; Alabama in Huntsville, University of Cactus have a Highly Specialized Root System. Thus, gas exchange takes place in the dark. These root hairs grow quickly, rapidly increasing the surface area of the root system that’s in contact with the soil. With leaf spinescence, evaporation is reduced and it is protected from attack by animals, which in many cases are forced to take advantage of the most vulnerable parts, such as fruits or seeds. Spines instead of leaves. Perhaps the most surprising way that spines help cacti survive in the desert is by collecting moisture for the plant. Plants in the desert have a different adaptive technique to match the climatic changes of the desert. 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