Grasslands are areas in which grasses predominantly dominate the vegetation. Alongside these grasses, Cyperaceae, Juncaceae, legumes, and other plants are also part of the grasslands. The grasslands comprise a significant portion of the Earth, dominating Earth’s landscapes and making it one of the giant biomes. Grasslands cover more than 30% of the Earth’s surface. Except for Antarctica, grasslands occur naturally everywhere. Grassland plant adaptations include long roots, narrow leaves, and vibrantly hued flowering plants. Grassland plants, specifically grasses, can grow at the base of the plant, not the edges.
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Plants are adapted to allow them to thrive (live and develop) in different environments. The adaptations are the unique characteristics that enable a plant or animal to thrive in a specific location or habitat. This is why some plants can be located in one region, and they aren’t in another. For instance, you would not find a cactus in the Arctic region. You also won’t find very tall trees in grasslands.
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The secret to the success of a plant in grassland that is closely mowed is the location in the position of the meristem. The meristem is a collection of cells that are active in dividing and form the point of growth of a stem or root. The majority of plants have an apical meristem where the growing point is located at the plant’s point (or the root). If they are cut, plants with an apical meristem will lose their growth points and are likely to die. Some plants may be able to survive if they’re capable of producing the new side shoots from axillary buds (the ones within the axils of the leaf).
The grass leaf is broad, long, and narrow, and it has its meristem close to the point at which it joins with the stem. The grass will develop even if the top part is cut off, possibly caused by a lawnmower. The advantage of having a growth point near the ground is that it gets lost in long vegetation, for example, under trees and shrubs in areas where the leaves are shaded.
Common grassland plants like the daisy ( Bellis perennis) and dandelions ( Taraxacum officinale) as well as the coarse hawkbit ( Leontodon hispidus) and the greater plantain ( Plantago major) form in a rosette. It is a unique form of growth in which the plant has tiny leaf internodes. This results in a circular shape of leaves laid flat on the soil in a spiral to avoid overlap. A sturdy straight root (the taproot) develops vertically in the soil beneath the leaves. The adaptations provide the plants an advantage in short and cut or crushed grasslands.
The rosette growth form is uncommon in taller vegetation since the surrounding plants shade out the flat leaves. If plants that form rosettes (such as the dandelions) are found among taller plants, the leaves will rise higher as a clump than the distinctive flat rosette. Both forms of growth can survive mowing as the meristems of the shoots are close to the soil. However, they may be unable to produce flowers on higher, upright stems of flowers.
Other plants take an elongated, trailing, or prostate growth type. The white clover ( Trifolium repens) and silverweed ( Potentilla anserina), and creeping buttercup ( Ranunculus repens) are spread through stolons. They are stems that sit in a low position against the ground with roots that grow new and create new offshoots of similar plants.
There are three main classifications of grasslands. The three classifications are listed as follows:
1. Natural Grasslands
Areas with herbaceous vegetation are called natural grasslands. They cover at least 50% of the Earth’s surface. The height of the plants is 150 centimeters. The predominant species in these grasslands are these Gramineous species. Apart from herbaceous plants, natural grasslands also have some areas covered by trees, shrubs, and mineral outcrops. The grasslands are created under the protection of nature.
In this context, the word “natural” describes plants that do not suffer any human intervention, such as mows and irrigation and drainage fertilization. In natural grasslands, nothing can hinder the growth of grasslands. The natural growth of the area is to be devoid of human intervention. The only human influence in maintaining the grasslands involves the clearing of weeds as well as wood overgrowth.
2. Semi-Natural Grasslands
A semi-natural grassland, also known as a semi-natural lowland grassland, is grasslands that have not been subject to herbicides or fertilizers. They are referred to as lowland since they have an altitude of lower than 350m. Meadow and pasture land are usually classified under this category of grasslands. They were formed partly through human activity, like clearing forests or livestock cutting, as well as clearing scrubs, etc. This eventually led to dense grasslands.
3. Agriculture Grasslands
These are grasslands that are specifically designed to produce forage to harvest. This is accomplished by cutting and grazing, browsing, and other methods. These grasslands are also utilized for other uses, such as renewable energy. Legumes, grasses, grass-like plants, and other forms are part of these grasslands for agriculture.
Grassland Plant Adaptations
Grassland plant adaptations include long roots, narrow leaves, and vibrantly hued flowering plants. Grassland plants, specifically grasses, can grow at the base of the plant, not the edges. This helps them survive the fires typically occurring in the hot and dry grasslands.
- The grassland plant adaptations include slim, narrow leaves, another variation. They absorb water but do not lose vital moisture because of evaporation.
- In many plant species, the leaves contain silica, a durable material that is resistant to the attacks of grazing animals.
- Major grassland plant adaptations include the deep roots extending over 11 feet below the surface. These allow the plant to locate water in dry periods and endure fires.
- Additionally, the plants have secondary roots that help hold the soil together, which reduces erosion caused by rain or wind.
- Many plants contain the toxin, which further shields the plants from being grazed.
- The reproduction of grassland plant species is an additional way to ensure that they thrive. For example, many species have brightly colored blooms which attract pollinators. They don’t even require pollinators to reproduce. Instead, they are pollinated by wind and are particularly successful in open spaces of grasslands.
- Certain grasses are cultivated in bunches or in groups which allows more to endure strong winds.
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The Temperate Grasslands
The temperate grasslands, often known as prairie, have warm summers and cold winters. The rainfall can be unpredictable, and drought is quite common. The grasslands in the temperate zone typically receive between 10 and 30 inches of rain each year. The organic rich soil is due to the grasses above ground dying each year, enriching the soil. The region is well-suited for agriculture, and only a few of the remaining prairies are original to the area.
Temperate Grassland Plant Adaptations (Prairie)
In temperate grasslands, the grasses and other plant species need to withstand cold winters as well as hot, dry summers. A lot of grasses live comfortably under a thick blanket of snow. In the winter months, grasses go into dormancy, meaning that they don’t produce new leaves, seeds, or roots until spring comes along with more warm temperatures and fresh rain. Many types of grass are built to deal with droughts and heat with little water.
- The roots of prairie grasses grow deep into the soil to soak up as much moisture as possible.
- The extensive root systems stop the grazing animals from taking roots from the soil.
- The leaves of prairie grasses are narrow and are less water-sucking than broad leaves.
- Even though grasses above ground might die when a fire breaks out, the roots remain to reseed.
- Certain species of prairie have thick barks to stop the flames.
- Prairie shrubs quickly emerge following a fire.
- Grasses are cultivated from their bases, but not there, so they aren’t forever damaged by fire or grazing animals.
- Many types of grass profit from the windy, exposed conditions and are wind-pollinated.
- Soft stems allow prairie grasses to bend in the breeze.