AskDefine | Define xerophyte

The Collaborative Dictionary

xerophyte \xe"ro*phyte\, n. A plant adapted for life with a limited supply of water; compare hydrophyte and mesophyte. Syn: desert plant, xerophytic plant, xerophile, xerophilous plant. [WordNet 1.5]

Word Net

xerophyte n : plant adapted for life with a limited supply of water; compare hydrophyte and mesophyte [syn: desert plant, xerophytic plant, xerophile, xerophilous plant]




  1. Any plant suited for life in a habitat where water is scarce, such as in a desert or chaparral. Such plants may be succulent, have small or reduced leaves, or spines.
  2. A desert plant

See also

A xerophyte or xerophytic organism (xero meaning dry, phyte meaning plant) is a plant which is able to survive in an ecosystem with little available water or moisture, usually in environments where potential evapotranspiration exceeds precipitation for all or part of the growing season. Plants like the cactus and other succulents are typically found in deserts where low rainfall amounts are the norm, but xerophytes such as the bromeliads can also be found in moist habitats such as tropical forests, exploiting niches where water supplies are limited or too intermittent for mesophytic plants. Plants that live under arctic conditions may also have a need for xerophytic adaptations, as water is unavailable for uptake when the ground is frozen. Their leaves are covered with silvery hairs (creates wind break & light reflective surface).
Adaptations of xerophytes include reduced permeability of the epidermal layer, stomata and cuticle to maintain optimal amounts of water in the tissues by reducing transpiration, adaptations of the root system to acquire water from deep underground sources or directly from humid atmospheres (as in epiphytic orchids), and succulence, or storage of water in swollen stems, leaves or root tissues. The typical morphological consequences of these adaptations are collectively called xeromorphisms.

Importance of water conservation

If the water potential inside the leaf is higher than outside the leaf, the water vapour will diffuse out of the leaf down this gradient. This loss of water vapour from the leaves is called transpiration, and the water vapour diffuses through open stomata in the leaf. Although this is a normal and important process in all plants, it is vital that plants living in dry conditions have adaptations that decrease this water potential gradient, and decrease the size of open stomata, in order to reduce water loss from the plant. It is important for a plant living in these conditions to conserve water because without enough water, plant cells lose turgor and the plant tissue wilts. If the plant loses too much water, it will pass its permanent wilting point, where the plant will die.
Types of xerophytic plants are:
  • Succulent plants - typically store water in stems or leaves. They include the Cactaceae family which typically have stems that are round and store a lot of water. Often, as in cacti where the leaves are reduced to spines, their leaves are vestigial, or they do not have leaves.
  • Bulbs - water is stored in their bulbs, at or below ground level. They may spend a period of dormancy during drought conditions underground, and are therefore known as drought evaders.
  • Short-lived annuals can often germinate following rainfall. An example of this is the California poppy whose seeds lie dormant during drought and then, flower and form seeds within four weeks of rainfall.


  • Biological Science 1 & 2, third edition
xerophyte in Czech: Xerofyty
xerophyte in Danish: Xerofyt
xerophyte in German: Xerophyt
xerophyte in Spanish: Xerófito
xerophyte in Esperanto: Kserofito
xerophyte in French: Xérophyte
xerophyte in Indonesian: Xerofit
xerophyte in Italian: Xerofita
xerophyte in Dutch: Xerofyt
xerophyte in Norwegian: Xerofytt
xerophyte in Polish: Kserofity
xerophyte in Portuguese: Xeromorfa
xerophyte in Russian: Ксерофиты
xerophyte in Finnish: Kuivakkokasvi
xerophyte in Swedish: Xerofyt
xerophyte in Telugu: ఎడారి మొక్కలు
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