How Do Plants Adapt to Cold Weather?

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The National Snow and Ice Data Center explains that different species of plants adapt to cold weather in a variety of ways, such as growing in forms that shed snow readily or by retaining dead leaves to help insulate the plant. Unlike birds and other animals that can migrate to avoid harsh winter weather, plants must find a way to cope with the cold temperatures without leaving.

According to the University of California if the water in a plant’s cells freezes, it is likely to make the cells burst and die. To address this issue, the National Snow and Ice Data Center explains that some plants possess specialized valves in their cells that seal off individually frozen cells, which helps prevent a chain reaction from occurring.

Cold temperatures are only one problem that plants must cope with during the winter season. In cold climates, the environmental water freezes, making it impossible for plants to draw it through their roots, as explained by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. To help prevent desiccation, deciduous trees often drop their leaves in the winter. Those plants that are adapted to cold habitats but do not shed their leaves often have leaves that are protected by a thick, waxy cuticle. This cuticle reduces the rate of evaporation, which helps to prevent desiccation.