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How Do Plants Adapt?, How Do Plants Survive Extreme Conditions?, Deserts, Rainforests

Our planet has about 260,000 species, or types, of plants. They are found all over the place: your backyard, the rainforests, the deserts, and the poles.

Plants cannot move from place to place the way animals can. That is why it is important that they are in the right environment. For example, a cactus would not grow very well at the South Pole.

Food from the Sun Sunflowers only grow well where the weather is warm and sunny. They turn their flowers to face the Sun.

How Do Plants Adapt?

Some plants move every day. They turn their leaves toward the Sun. Sunflower plants turn toward the Sun. They do this to catch as much sunlight as possible.

Food from the Sun When a fern sprouts, its leaves are curled up tightly. Next, the leaves uncurl and begin to photosynthesize.

Other plants adapt according to the season. In a woodland, lots of plants compete for light. In spring, plants grow new leaves. Ferns are one of the first plants to grow new leaves. They do this before the trees have sprouted leaves. This way, they can catch lots of light before they are shaded by the trees.

Food from the Sun In cold and exposed places, plants grow close to the ground so that they are protected from strong winds. There is not enough warmth or sunlight for them to grow tall.

How Do Plants Survive Extreme Conditions?

Each environment presents new problems for plants.


Desert plants have plenty of sunlight. But they receive very little water. When it does rain, they soak up as much water as they can. Their roots are often very close to the surface of the soil or sand. They are ready and waiting to catch any drop of water that falls.

Their next challenge is to hang onto the water. Desert plants have a thick, waxy surface. They have spikes instead of leaves. This stops a lot of water from being lost across their outside surface.


Rainforests are found in hot, rainy regions of the world. They have a lot of sunlight and a lot of rain. Thousands of plant species grow here. They all compete for light and minerals. Rainforest trees grow very fast and extremely tall. Some stand over 150 feet (46 meters). The tallest trees get the most sunlight. In this way, they compete with each other for survival.


Trees in a rainforest can be very tall. The tallest can grow to 300 feet (90 m) tall. That's about the same height as fifty men standing on each others' shoulders.

Food from the Sun Dense rainforest in Australia is home to a massive variety of plants and animals.

Additional topics

Science Encyclopedia for KidsFood from the Sun