Plant Adaptation Tournament

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Objective

Students will judge with criteria to decide which plant's adaptations stand out.

The eight competitors (and some of their adaptations) are:

  1. Saguaro Cactus - wide shallow roots plus a deep taproot, stores a literal ton of water, has small spines to protect it from bugs
  2. Desert Lily - bulb is deep underground, lies dormant, during rain it quickly blooms and then retreats, cycle lasts just a few weeks
  3. Liana - woody vine rooted in the soil, uses trees to climb up to reach sunlight
  4. Pineapple - leaves rotated to maximize sunlight and moisture, leaves form cups that hold water, stomata suck in nutrients through leaves (not just roots), water storage system in the leaves, trichomes (hairy part of leaves) prevent water loss, sucks in CO2 at night to conserve water
  5. Cushion Plants - very short but wide, has deep tap roots, grows for years before trying to reproduce, can live hundreds of years, pack tightly to generate and conserve heat, can have hundreds of small flowers to attract pollinators from far away
  6. Bristlecone Pine - a few large roots provide structural support, but branched shallow root system seeks out water, waxy needles conserve water
  7. Kelp - bulbs make the plant float without need for sturdy trunk, only needs shallow roots, both sides of blades can photosynthesize, serrated edges of blades stir up water to increase nutrient absorption
  8. Water Lily - floats on the water, no need for sturdy trunk, spreads out on surface to capture light, shallow roots just keep it anchored

The plants are partnered with a plant from a similar environment (two desert plants, two water plants, etc) to highlight how different adaptations can be.

Resources

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