Vegetation adaptation

Tundra pond with cotton grass growing nearby, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
Tundra pond with cotton grass growing nearby, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Vegetation needs to be able to tolerate cold. Very few species are able to do this. Plants are low growing, compact and rounded in order to help protect from the wind. The frozen ground means soils are waterlogged.

Cotton grass is one example of a plant able to survive these conditions. The features which make it able to survive are:

  • low-lying - the snow covers it in winter which helps insulate it
  • seeds that scatter in the wind
  • narrow leaves helping to reduce transpiration
  • adapted to a short growing season (so has a short life cycle)
  • dense flowerheads reducing heat loss
  • darker leaves helps absorb energy from Sun
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