Desert Flowers – The Biology behind Them
Desert flowers are an interesting and unusual component of nature. They thrive in an environment that means certain death to most life that dares venture into it. How anything can survive amidst the searing heat and blowing sand of a desert is almost beyond comprehension, especially given the fact that plants require water and that deserts are not generally known for their rainy seasons.
Desert flowers are unique in that they have adapted to these environments by necessity, rather than let themselves die out. There are two major types of desert flowers, which are classified as xerophytes and phreatophytes. Xerophytes are plants like cacti, which have developed an advanced water storage device. Phreatophytes have instead adapted to the desert by growing extremely long roots that can dig down for groundwater.
We will elaborate a bit more on these two systems:
· Xerophytes – The physical and behavioral adaptations of desert flowers are as numerous and innovative as those of desert animals. Xerophytes, plants that have evolved physical characteristics to better tolerate extreme heat and lack of water, are the largest group of such plants living in the deserts of the world.
Cacti, xerophytic adaptations of the rose family, are among the most drought-resistant plants on the planet due to their lack of leaves, shallow root systems, ability to store water in their stems, spines for shade and waxy skin to seal in moisture.
· Phreatophytes – Phreatophytes, such as the hardy mesquite tree, have adapted to desert conditions by evolving extremely long root systems to draw water from deep underground near the water table. The mesquite’s roots are considered the longest of any desert flowers and have been recorded as long as 80 feet.
Desert Flowers – Common Varieties
We’ve compiled a list of some of the more notable desert flowers that includes interesting facts about each species as well as their range and habitat:
· Saguaro Cactus – The gigantic saguaro cactus is composed of a tall, thick, columnar stem, which is usually 18 to 24 inches in diameter, often with several large arms curving upwards. It is these arms, which are technically branches, which give this plant what may be one of the most distinctive appearances of all desert flowers. When you think of the desert or the Wild West, you usually picture the saguaro.
The skin of the saguaro is smooth and waxy and the trunk and stems have stout, 2-inch spines clustered on their ribs. When water is absorbed, the outer pulp of the Saguaro can expand like an accordion, which increases the diameter of the stem and to the point where the weight of the entire plant can increase by an entire ton.
The saguaro grows at a rate of about an inch every year, but can reach up to fifty feet in height. It is estimated that the plants are capable of living for many hundreds of years.
· Prickly Pear – These desert flowers have flat, fleshy pad-like arms that resemble large leaves. The pads are actually modified branches or stems that serve several functions — water storage, photosynthesis and flower production. The flowers of this plant are usually yellow, red or purple.
The red, fleshy fruit of the prickly pear is often harvested and eaten, as are the pad-like arms. Nectar and pulp gathered from both are used to make prickly pair nectar, which is a popular health food item.
· Desert Sunflower – Two-inch, golden-yellow flower heads adorn the branches of this plant. The flowers are composed of 10 to 20 oblong rays surrounding the golden disk. It blooms from February through May and sometimes, with moist summers, again in October and November. The Desert Sunflower is a slender, hairy plant that grows 1 to 3 feet high.
Desert Flowers – More Information
Desert flowers are often enjoyed at home by gardeners who live in dry and arid communities where many more temperate plants have difficulty growing. They are also great in bouquets and other flower arrangements to be used for decoration or as gifts. A potted cactus, for example, can make a great gift for a friend or family member.
You can often find many of these different species of desert flowers at the local florist, whose shop is equipped to meet the most diverse of floral needs. By working with them and discussing your plans or desires, you can easily come up with creative and unique arrangements of desert flowers that the whole family can love at home, or that make perfect gifts for any occasion.
You can use their online store to purchase desert flowers and arrange for delivery of your gifts, which is a real time saver for the busy person. Same-day domestic delivery is usually guaranteed, and provides a great way for you and those you know to enjoy artistic displays of desert flowers.
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