Facts About Plants in the Desert


Because of the extremes of temperature and lack of water, desert plants in the United States must adapt to survive. Plants do this by adjusting physically and behaviorally to take advantage of the elements in their surroundings that benefit them most.


Botanists describe a xerophyte as a plant that makes physical changes to survive. Cacti do this by storing water and conserving it for later use when dry spells occur. Their lack of leaves is another example of adapting, reducing loss of water through transpiration.


The phreatophytes, such as the creosote bush and the mesquite tree, have the ability to produce a very long system of roots that allows them to access water deep within the ground.

Time Frame

Perennial plants in the desert have the ability to stay dormant during long stretches without water and then bloom as soon as water is available.


The annual plants in a desert ecosystem typically will germinate after the monsoon rain seasons and hurry through their reproductive phase to produce hardy seeds that will grow the next year.

Fun Fact

A close examination of desert soil would reveal dozens of seeds from different plants in each small handful waiting for their chance to germinate under the right conditions, according to DesertUSA.com.


  • Desert USA
Keywords: desert plant adaptations, desert cactus, annual desert plants

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John has written thousands of articles for Demand Studios, Associated Content and The Greyhound Review. A Connecticut native, John has written extensively about sports, fishing, and nature.