- Ability to collect and store water
- Features that reduce water loss
Most desert plants grow far apart and their roots extend out so that each plant can get water and minerals from a large area. Other desert plants have roots that extend deep into the ground to obtain water from deep beneath the ground.
When it rains, cactuses and other succulent (juicy) plants take up as much water as possible and store it in their leaves and stems which will provide the water they need during the dry months. Their waxy leaves and stems also slow down water loss through transpiration.
Other plants survive by shedding their leaves in dry periods to reduce water loss. Some plants have pin-like leaves to reduce water loss.
The pleated shape of the Barrel Cactus allows it to expand when it rains and store water in its spongy tissue. It shrinks in size during dry times as it uses the stored water.
The Prickly Pear Cactus: The prickly pear cactus grows up to 7 feet tall. It has circular pads arising from a thick, round trunk. The pads are actually fast growing stems. This cactus grows in a upright position with pads sticking out at all angles covered with barbed spin. The pads are four to six inches long, 9 inches wide, and .75 inches thick. The pads are very course and covered with spines. There are flowers located on the pads of the cactus.
The Saguaro grows very slowly, perhaps an inch a year, but to a great height, 15 to 50 feet.
Old Man Cactus:
Hair on the leaves of plants helps to reduce the evaporation of moisture from the surface of leaves by reflecting sunlight and inhibiting air movement.
Some other photos of desert plants are: