How Do Plants Adapt to the Tundra?

The few plants that grow in a tundra biome have adapted by remaining dormant in the long, extremely cold winter season and taking advantage of the short summer months to grow and propagate. The plants have shallow roots, are able to perform photosynthesis even in cold temperatures and have small leaf structures.

Arctic plants, which include grasses, liverworts, sedges, low shrubs and reindeer mosses, grow close together and low on the ground, enabling them to survive the nine long months of winter. Huddling together allows the plants to resist the damage caused by the layers of snow and ice particles stirred up by the strong, frequent winds. Alpine plants located in high altitude mountains throughout the world are similar to Arctic plants, though they grow in well-drained soils with no permafrost. The Alpine soil, however, is thin and poor in nutrients, discouraging productivity. Cushion plants found in the Alpine tundra survive the harsh winds by growing roots that extend deep and cling to rocky soil. Some plants, such as lichens, attach themselves on rocks, which anchor them on the ground and provide protection from the wind.

In the summer, when long hours of sunlight are available, most tundra plants reproduce quickly by budding and division instead of growing flowers and reproducing sexually. Flowering plants develop and grow flowers once summer begins.