Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
48 ratings

Saturday - June 23, 2007

From: London, Other
Region: Other
Topic: General Botany
Title: Where do plants grow?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Where do plants grow?

ANSWER:

Plants grow everywhere. They grow on land, in the ocean, in lakes and rivers, on mountain tops, and in the desert. Even Antarctica, perhaps the harshest climate in the world, has two flowering plants. Pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis) and Antarctic hairgrass (Deschampsia antarctica). In the polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic) the growing season is very short, less than three months, and limited to when the soil warms enough to thaw. The predominant plants are grasses and sedges and most plants remain very short, usually less than one foot or 20 cm. One of the Antarctic plants, Deschampsia antarctica, has adapted to its harsh environment by producing antifreeze proteins.

Deserts also have flowering plants. Many of the desert plants have special adaptations to survive long periods without water. One of the major adaptations is to have a small surface area to reduce water loss. Desert plants tend to have small leaves that are thick and waxy, or no leaves at all. Succulent desert plants, such as the cacti, are able to store water in their thick stems.

Plants grow in the mountains at very high elevations such as in the Himalayas in Nepal Mosses and lichens are found as high as 6300 meters (~20,600 feet). The vascular plant Stellaria decumbens, has been found growing in mats at 6100 m (~20,000 feet). Not only do they have to contend with cold temperatures and short growing seasons, but they also have to deal with increased levels of UV light because of the thin atmosphere. Many of them have a red pigment, anthocyanin, that helps protect them from the high levels of UV light.

 

More General Botany Questions

Oils/paraffins in sea oats
September 04, 2010 - Do Sea Oats produce oils/paraffins?
view the full question and answer

Contacts with botanical illustrators
July 16, 2006 - I am interested in preparing 3D (stereoscopic) illustrations of plants and flowers. Can you give some contacts with botanical illustrators for guidance? Are there any guidelines about botanical illust...
view the full question and answer

Pure white primroses (Oenothera speciosa)
May 13, 2008 - Hello MS. Smarty Plants! I have wildflowers instead of grass in my backyard (mow once a year and it's spectacularly beautiful) and I noticed some pure white primroses (the rest are all pink or wi...
view the full question and answer

Dyes from native North American plants
November 29, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have been working as a textile designer for many years and am now interested in harvesting native North American plants in order to create natural dyes. Which plant ...
view the full question and answer

Are Chickasaw plums evergreen?
August 13, 2014 - Are Chickasaw Plums evergreens? I've been very interested in planting a few but some websites say they are evergreens while others say the opposite. Furthermore, would I have to plant a male and fema...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.