Adaptation of succulents to drought by absorbing as much water as possible

Adaptation of succulents to drought by absorbing as much water as possible

Like succulents they absorb as much water as possible to withstand drought

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In order to survive in the arid environments in which they grow, succulents try to absorb as much water as possible. To do this they adopt the following strategies:

1. A very efficient root system

The roots of succulent or succulent plants can be of different types:

  • fasciculated roots: as in the case of Ferocactus latispinus (Cactaceae) and of Faucaria tuberculosa (Aizoaceae);

  • taproots: an example is the Thelocephala glabrescens (Cactaceae);

  • tuberous roots: we find them in the Hawortia truncata (Asphodelaceae).

In the Cactaceae (but in all succulents in general) the root system can be:

  • SURFACE: very broad on the surface (FASCICULATED ROOT). The purpose of such a superficial and large root system is to absorb the little rain that falls but also the water of the dew and fog. And if the rain is abundant, the water that descends in depth then rises to the surface by evaporation, also bringing dissolved salts, important for the plant. So the water is intercepted twice: the first time when it falls and the second time when it rises by capillarity;

  • FITTONANTE: ie a large main root that descends vertically into the ground and generally very short in proportion to the plant. In fact, just below the surface, the horizontal roots start and gradually move away from the plant forming a dense and superficial network that develops from 1 to 5 cm deep. Once the rainy season has passed, the dry season arrives. , the plant dries up the small roots thinner because otherwise they would be a useless mouth to feed. There are only the larger ones that are covered with a layer of cork to avoid the loss of water and become unable to absorb anything and become real water stores. With the arrival of the new rains, the absorbent rootlets will reform.

2. Development of hair or bristles

Bristles or hairs grow above all on the reliefs of the leaves or in the stems where the humidity of the air (dew or fog) that the plant retains and absorbs can condense.

3. Retain water very tenaciously

The water is retained in their tissues thanks to the particular structure of the plasma, rich in mucilaginous substances linked to particular protein elements that retain water with extreme tenacity. They are real chemical bonds much more powerful than a simple osmosis phenomenon.

With all these tricks that the plant takes to survive extreme conditions, it has been shown that a large cactus after 6 years of drought had lost only 35% of its water reserves.

Tricks that succulents implement to survive in arid environments:


  • general information;
  • reduction of perspiration;
  • water storage;
  • absorption of as much water as possible;
  • holding as much water as possible.

Video: Cactus and Succulents. #PLANTS