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Sample Essay

1558 words - 7 pages

Just as animals around the world have evolved to better survive in their environments, botanical life everywhere has also been forced to grow and adapt to their habitats. Every plant—from the smallest strain of seaweed to the tallest redwood—is the result of billions of years of competition for optimal growth conditions. In many places with harsh conditions or where there is a very large population of plants competing for limited resources, some plants have developed amazing ways of surviving. Some are poisonous to prevent animals from killing and eating them, while others have become carnivorous, eating and digesting insects to make up for a lack of nitrogen that most plants would absorb ...view middle of the document...

The cell sap of the succulent thus becomes more and more acidic as its night-storage acid batteries become fully charged” (Bellamy). When the sun rises, the plant once again closes its pores and begins taking in sunlight, which allows it to complete the process of photosynthesis by turning the stored acids into glucose, or sugar. This unique succulent trait is called crassulacean acid metabolism and is something most people would not expect from a mostly branchless plant covered in spikes.
Despite having few other plants providing competition, succulents have had to overcome some of the harshest living conditions on the planet. Extremely high temperatures during the day and evening temperatures that often dip below freezing are only the beginning of problems for desert plant life. Scarce rainfall coupled with very dry air make it difficult for plants to obtain water needed for photosynthesis and create competition between animals and plants. Desert-dwelling animals also have problems obtaining water, but unlike plants, which are rooted in one place and are very limited in the ways of defense, animals are free to eat whatever plant life they can to acquire water or simply move to an area where it is easier to obtain water and nutrients. The competition provided by desert animals attempting to acquire water from plants has led to the cactus’s most obvious and distinctive evolution: its hard, sharp spines or needles.
Needles are arguably the most important part of all cacti and are without a doubt the most obvious sign that a plant is in fact a succulent. The reason needles are so vital to cactus survival is because they protect the plant's stem, where photosynthesis is performed and water is stored. Without this protection, cacti would still be suited for desert living because of their unique methods of surviving the extreme temperatures, but they would also be an incredibly popular source of food and water for desert animals. While some animals have evolved to work around these hard, sharp protectors and crack into the juicy innards of the plant, these spines have been keeping cacti alive for thousands of years: “Spines have been known to persist unchanged on the trunk of giant Suaharos several centuries old” (Hylander). It is a widely known fact that the most well-armored cacti grow in the hottest areas. In these areas, the heavy lattice of needles can help to block some of the sun's rays, keeping the cactus from overheating and the water inside from evaporating even with the stem's tightly closed pores.
While the needles of succulents often make the plants look hazardous, inhospitable, and sometimes just plain ugly, when they flower in the spring, they are some of the most beautiful plants on the planet. Many cacti flower only at night, closing up during the day because the flowers themselves are often very sensitive to the relentlessly bright rays of the sun. Some of these beauties are so delicate that they only bloom for a single day—or...

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