Tuesday, June 03, 2008

How plants prepare for winter

From Science Made Simple

This doesn't really answer my question from the previous post, but there are interesting stuff here.

Leaves are nature's food factories. Plants take water from the ground through their roots. They take a gas called carbon dioxide from the air. Plants use sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide into glucose. Glucose is a kind of sugar. Plants use glucose as food for energy and as a building block for growing. The way plants turn water and carbon dioxide into sugar is called photosynthesis. That means "putting together with light." A chemical called chlorophyll helps make photosynthesis happen. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color.

As summer ends and autumn comes, the days get shorter and shorter. This is how the trees "know" to begin getting ready for winter.

During winter, there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories.

All summer, with the long hours of sunlight and a good supply of liquid water, plants are busy making and storing food, and growing. But what about wintertime? The days are much shorter, and water is hard to get. Plants have found many different ways to get through the harsh days of winter.

Some plants, including many garden flowers, are called "annuals," which means they complete their life cycle in one growing season. They die when winter comes, but their seeds remain, ready to sprout again in the spring. "Perennials" live for more than two years. This category includes trees and shrubs, as well as herbaceous plants with soft, fleshy stems. When winter comes, the woody parts of trees and shrubs can survive the cold. The above ground parts of herbaceous plants (leaves, stalks) will die off, but underground parts (roots, bulbs) will remain alive. In the winter, plants rest and live off stored food until spring.

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