Utama Trees, Leaves, Flowers and Seeds: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Plant Kingdom

Trees, Leaves, Flowers and Seeds: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Plant Kingdom

A unique guide to the extraordinary world of plants, from the smallest seeds to the tallest trees.
We couldn't live without plants. We need them for food, shelter, and even the air we breathe, yet we know surprisingly little about them. Why do thistles bristle with spines? How do some plants trap and eat insects? Did you know there are trees that are 5,000 years old? Trees, Leaves, Flowers & Seeds explores the mysterious world of plants to find the answers to these and many more questions.
Each type of plant--such as a flowering plant, tree, grass, or cactus--is examined close up, with an example shown from all angles and even in cross section, to highlight the key parts. Then picture-packed galleries show the wonderful variety of plants on different themes, perhaps the habitat they grow in, a flower family, or the plants that supply us with our staple foods. But the book also takes a fun look at some truly weird and wonderful plants, including trees with fruits like a giant's fingers, orchids that look like monkey faces, seeds that spin like helicopters, and trees that drip poison.
So open this beautiful book and find out more about amazing Trees, Leaves, Flowers & Seeds.
Tahun:
2019
Edisi:
1
Penerbit:
DK, Dorling Kindersley
Bahasa:
english
Halaman:
192
ISBN 10:
1465482423
ISBN 13:
978-1465482426
File:
PDF, 86.86 MB
Unduh (pdf, 86.86 MB)

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smithsonian

TREES, LEAVES,

FLOWERS & SEEDS
A VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE PLANT KINGDOM
WRITTEN BY DR. SARAH JOSE
CONSULTANT DR. CHRIS CLENNETT

DK LONDON
Senior Editor Ashwin Khurana
Senior Art Editor Rachael Grady
US Editor Jennette ElNaggar
US Executive Editor Lori Cates Hand
Jacket Designer Surabhi Wadhwa-Gandhi
Jacket Editor Emma Dawson
Jacket Design Development Manager Sophia MTT
Producer, Pre-production Andy Hilliard
Senior Producers Jude Crozier, Mary Slater
Managing Editor Francesca Baines
Managing Art Editor Philip Letsu
Publisher Andrew Macintyre
Art Director Karen Self
Associate Publishing Director Liz Wheeler
Publishing Director Jonathan Metcalf
First American Edition, 2019
Published in the United States by DK Publishing
1450 Broadway, Suite 801, New York, NY 10018
Copyright © 2019 Dorling Kindersley Limited
DK, a Division of Penguin Random House LLC
19 20 21 22 23 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
001–310149–Sept/2019
All rights reserved.
Without limiting the rights under the copyright reserved above, no
part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced
into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means
(electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise),
without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
Published in Great Britain by Dorling Kindersley Limited
A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 978-1-4654-8242-6
DK books are available at special discounts when purchased
in bulk for sales promotions, premiums, fund-raising, or educational
use. For details, contact: DK Publishing Special Markets,
1450 Broadway, Suite 801, New York, NY 10018
SpecialSales@dk.com
Printed and bound in China

A WORLD OF IDEAS:
SEE ALL THERE IS TO KNOW
www.dk.com

Established in 1846, the Smithsonian—the world’s largest museum
and research complex—includes 19 museums and galleries and
the National Zoological Park. The Smithsonian is a renowned
research center, dedicated to public education, national service,
and scholarsh; ip in the arts, sciences, and natural history. Smithsonian
Gardens, an accredited museum and Public Garden, engages people
with plants and gardens, informs on the roles both play in our cultural
and natural worlds, and inspires appreciation and stewardship of
living and archival collections and horticultural artifacts.

CONTENTS

DK DELHI
Senior Editors Anita Kakar, Bharti Bedi, Rupa Rao
Senior Art Editor Shreya Anand
Editorial team Arpita Dasgupta, Bipasha Roy
Art Editors Baibhav Parida, Debjyoti Mukherjee
Assistant Art Editors Sifat Fatima, Sanya Jain
Jacket Designer Tanya Mehrotra
Jackets Editorial Coordinator Priyanka Sharma
Senior DTP Designer Harish Aggarwal
DTP Designers Jaypal Chauhan, Ashok Kumar, Vijay Kandwal,
Mohammad Rizwan, Vikram Singh, Rakesh Kumar
Senior Picture Researcher Sumedha Chopra
Picture Researchers Aditya Katyal, Vishal Ghavri
Picture Research Manager Taiyaba Khatoon
Managing Jackets Editor Saloni Singh
Pre-production Manager Balwant Singh
Production Manager Pankaj Sharma
Managing Editor Kingshuk Ghoshal
Managing Art Editor Govind Mittal

FOREWORD

6

THE WORLD
OF PLANTS

8

The plant kingdom
What is a plant?
How do roots work?
What is a stem?
Living bridges
How do seeds grow?
Seed shapes
Scattering seeds
Spreading without seeds
The life cycle of a plant
What is a leaf ?
Simple leaves
Compound leaves
Plants with patterns
Symmetrical swirls
Self-defense
Plants and nitrogen

10
12
14
16
18
20
22
24
26
28
30
32
34
36
38
40
42

NONFLOWERING
PLANTS

44

Nonflowering plants
Ancient plants
What is a fern?
Fern fronds
Dinosaur diet
What is a conifer cone?
Pines and needles
Conifer cones

46
48
50
52
54
56
58
60

FLOWERING
PLANTS

62

What is a flower?
Flower forms
Pollinators
Looks familiar
River of blossom
A garden of roses
Crazy for daisies
Ingenious orchids
Blossoms and bulbs
What’s that smell?
Living in water
Along the river
Flooded forest
What is a cactus?
Cool cacti
Desert survivors
Desert bloom
Meat-eating plants
Poisonous plants
Parasitic plants
Mountain life
Creepers and climbers
What is a tree?
Types of trees
Barking up the tree
Standing tall
Blossom time
Living on air
Strangler fig
The forest floor
Bonsai
What is a grass?
Types of grasses
Grasses and grains
Rice terraces
Fruit or vegetable?

64
66
68
70
72
74
76
78
80
82
84
86
88
90
92
94
96
98
100
102
104
106
108
110
112
114
116
118
120
122
124
126
128
130
132
134

Going underground
Soft fruits
Volcanic vineyard
Stone fruits
Juicy fruits
Tropical fruits
Magnificent melons
A bit nutty
Eat your greens!
Peas and beans
All squashed up!
Pumpkin boat race
Bulbs, stems, and stalks

LIVING WITH
PLANTS

136
138
140
142
144
146
148
150
152
154
156
158
160

162

Plants and people
The spices of life
Helpful herbs
Plant products
Shrinking forest
Natural beauty
Plants of the world
Plant science
Space garden

164
166
168
170
172
174
176
178
180

GLOSSARY
PLANT INDEX
INDEX
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

182
184
188
192

-m

ine

For
ge
t

ot

Austria

np

e-n

it
S ta r f r u

FOREWORD

r

ic
op

This amalgamation of disciplines is what first
attracted me to the profession and has held my
interest for more than 40 years. This volume
brought me back to Hort Studies 101, with each
chapter examining different plants, their parts,
and how they interact with the world around
them. Thankfully, the photographs used reveal
details—ranging from tangled roots to distinctive
seed and flower shapes—that surpass the old
transparency sheets used by my professors.
Similar to Trees, Leaves, Flowers & Seeds,
Smithsonian Gardens combines art and science
in its many diverse garden and landscape
exhibits. While their beauty is often what initially
attracts visitors, the science they embody
showcases our living collections and provides

a l p i tc h e r

p

la

T

Plants are essential for life. They make our
planet’s atmosphere breathable, their decaying
bodies create the soil under our feet, and they
transform light energy into consumable nutrients
that keep us alive. They also inspire artists; think
of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Poppies, Claude Monet’s
Water Lilies, and Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
Trees, Leaves, Flowers & Seeds combines the
art and science of plants, revealing complex
botanical details in beautiful photographs and
simple graphics. While previewing this book,
I wondered where it was when I was a child
interested in learning more about plants.
It reminded me why I began my career in
horticulture. At its most basic level, horticulture
is the science and art of growing plants.

nt

T hai b
a

s

rn

f lo

we r

il

Co

Ec

h
ev
eri

a

An

gel
w i n gs

Dwarf pomegranate

depths of engagement with our audiences.
Our gardens are delightful examples of
performative art. They change every season,
indeed every day, of their existence. Smithsonian
Gardens’ staff horticulturists and gardeners are
extraordinarily knowledgeable when it comes to
plant science, yet so much of their work evolves
into genuine artistry thanks to their natural skill
in combining living collections.
Perhaps the fascinating information and
engaging photographs in Trees, Leaves, Flowers
& Seeds will launch an inquisitive child’s journey
into the mesmerizing world of plants.

Throughout this book, you will find scale boxes that
show the sizes of plants compared to either a child,
a school bus, or a human hand.

Child = 4 3 ⁄4 ft
(1.45 m) tall

School bus = 36 ft
(11 m) wide

Hand = 6 in
(16 cm) long

Cynthia Brown
Smithsonian Gardens Education and Collections Manager

D

fr uit
gon
a
r

R ad
i cc h
io

Holly

THE WORLD
OF PLANTS

Nonflowering plants
The world of plants

These are the oldest plants and include ferns
and mosses, which reproduce using spores.
Conifers, which produce naked (not enclosed)
seeds, also belong to this group.

Mosses

Liverworts

n li
ve r wo r

t

Sta

rm

oss

mo

oth

h o rn

The plant
kingdom
10

Lycopods

if

St

mo

S

C

om

Hornworts

There are around 400,000 different types of plants,
and botanists—scientists specializing in plants—
discover new ones all the time. Hundreds of millions
of years ago, the first plants were small and did
not flower. Over time, the process of evolution
has created a fantastic range of plants, from simple
ferns to stunning cherry blossoms and spiky cacti.
To bring order to this incredible variety, botanists
divide up plants into nonflowering and flowering
plants. Within these categories, there are many
species, and some of them are shown here.

wo r t

cl u

bm

oss

Grasses

Lit

tl e

b lu

estem

Daisies

F ig

aro

da hl

ia

PLANT KINGDOM

Flowering plants

Ferns

ree

dg

Lo

tt

S

of

Gymnosperms

fern

ep

ol e

Angiosperms

Lu

pine

p in

e

Monocots

Dicots

Monocots have just one seed leaf, which
grows into a new plant. They often have
long, narrow leaves. Grasses, orchids,
and palms are examples of monocots.

Dicots have two seed leaves, which appear
together when a new plant starts to grow.
They mostly have broad leaves. Dicots
include daisies, roses, cacti, and legumes.

Palms

Orchids

Van
d

Co
con
u

a

t pal

m

Roses

Cacti

Ol

ine

ma

d

Ch

se r
os e

The plant kingdom

Angiosperms, or flowering plants, make
up more than 90 percent of all plants.
They produce seeds that are protected
by a hard casing.

no

f the

Andes

Legumes

Sn

ow

p ea

11

The world of plants

What is
a plant?
Plants come in all shapes and sizes—from
tiny green mosses to giant trees—but almost
all plants contain a green pigment called
chlorophyll. This chemical harnesses
the energy of sunlight to make the food
(a sugar called glucose) that the plant
needs to grow. As part of this process,
called photosynthesis, plants take carbon
dioxide gas from the air and turn it into
food, while releasing oxygen, which all
animals need to breathe.

Flower ❯ This colorful part of the plant
contains the male and female cells that
are responsible for producing seeds.

Tendril ❯ This plant has a special
stem, called a tendril, which
wraps around nearby objects,
helping support the plant.

Not a plant

Lichens
A lichen is made up of algae
and fungi living together. The
algae help make food, while
the fungi provide shade.

12

Corals
Corals are tiny, underwater animals
with hard skeletons. To grow, they
depend on algae in their tissues to
make energy from sunlight.

Algae
Many algae are green, like
plants, but do not have true
roots, stems, and leaves. Algae
can live only in water.

Fungi
Unlike plants, fungi get their
food from the soil, or from
other plants and animals on
which they grow.

Leaf ❯ This is the power
station of a plant. Leaves use
sunlight to make the energy
the plant needs to grow.

Stem ❯ The stem supports
the plant. It can be short or
tall, woody or nonwoody.

Cucumber
plant

Fruit ❯ A fruit contains
the plant’s seeds, protecting
them from harm. Colorful
fruits attract animals to eat
them and then spread the
seeds in their droppings.

Flowering plant

This cucumber plant uses flowers to
reproduce and make seeds for new
plants. However, not all plants have
flowers—simple plants, such as mosses
and conifers, reproduce in other ways.
It is sometimes difficult to tell what is
a plant and what is not—seaweed and
fungi, for example, are not plants.

Root ❯ Plants use their roots
to anchor themselves to the
ground. Roots also draw water
and nutrients from the soil to
keep the plant alive.

Taproot ❯ As a seed starts to grow, one
or more strong roots push down into the
soil. This is the plant’s taproot, and it grows
only at its tip, forcing soil particles aside
with a tough root cap as it grows deeper
into the ground.

Most plants have roots, which anchor
the plant in the ground. Roots soak up
vital water from the soil, along with the
dissolved minerals that the plant uses to
grow. Grasses have tufts of fibrous roots,
but most other plants grow at least one
taproot, which then sprouts smaller lateral
(side) roots that spread outward.

How do
roots
work?
Burdock
root

Leaf ❯ A plant’s leaves use the energy
from sunlight to make sugar. Water
is drawn up through the roots and
sugary sap moves down from the
leaves, powering the plant’s growth.

Aerial Some plants, typically in tropical forests,
grow in the treetops with roots that cling to
the tree bark for support. The American pearl
laceleaf grows roots that hang in the moist air
to absorb essential water.

Types of roots

Root hairs grow from
the root’s skin cells
(seen here in pink).

Root hair ❯ Tiny root hairs sprout from
just above the growing tip of each
root. They grow between soil particles
and absorb the water and minerals
that the plant needs to grow.

Lateral root ❯ These spindly roots branch out
from the main taproots to form a complex,
tangled network of roots.

Buttress Many tropical rain forest trees are
supported by roots that spread out partly
above the ground. This is because most
rain forest soil is not very deep and these
surface roots help anchor the tree.

Pneumatophore Rooted in waterlogged,
airless mud, these mangrove trees grow in
swampy, subtropical brackish (salty) water.
Some have roots that grow upwards into
the air to gather oxygen.

Stilt Mangroves growing on muddy tidal
seashores are swept by waves at high tide.
Many mangrove trees have stiltlike roots
that arch down from their trunks to help
support them in the moving water.

What is
a stem?
A stem is like a plant’s backbone, holding it up and
connecting its roots, leaves, flowers, and fruits. It raises
the leaves toward the sunlight so they can make food,
which is then transported by the stem to the rest of
the plant. It also carries water and nutrients up from the
roots. There are many different types of stems, from soft,
green stems to hard tree trunks.

Sugarcan

e

Creeper stem ❯ Young English
ivy stems are soft and flexible,
with tiny anchoring roots to
help it climb. As the plant
grows, the stems grow thicker
and harder, sending out side
shoots to explore new spaces.

Tough stem ❯ This tall grass supports
itself with a tough stem. Special tissues
running down the stem transport the sugar
made in its leaves to other parts of the
plant. Sugarcane stems hold a lot of
sugar, which can be harvested and dried
to produce the sugar that we eat.

En

sh
gli

iv y

Woody stem ❯ Trunks and branches are woody stems,
which are stiff and strong to provide support for tall
trees. The live tissue (cambium) is protected by an outer
covering of dead bark. These stems expand by producing
new layers of woody tissue each year—the growth rings
that can be seen in cut tree trunks.

Types of stems
There are many types of stem. Woody stems
contain two layers of tissue—one transports
water, and the other food in the form of sugar. In
nonwoody stems, these tissues are combined into
tubes. Woody stems are protected by thickened
bark, while nonwoody stems are covered by a thin,
protective tissue layer.
Tissue
transporting
water
Tissue
transporting
sugar

r k sc r e w
C o h a ze l

Soft,
spongy layer
Thin outer
layer

Nonwoody stem

Tissue
transporting
sugar
Tissue
transporting
water
Core of
woody stem
Tough,
strong bark

Woody stem

Sweet sap suckers
Sun rose

Soft stem ❯ The nonwoody
stems of many smaller plants
are soft and green. They support
the plant, while transporting
water and nutrients.

Small bugs called aphids puncture
stems to suck out the sweet, nutrientrich liquid transported inside it. These
insects don’t usually kill the plant but
can often slow down its growth and carry
diseases that might harm it.

LIVING BRIDGES

The state of Meghalaya in northeast India is one of the
wettest regions in the world, with almost 39 ft (12 m) of
rainfall each year. The rains flood the rivers, making travel difficult, but the local Khasi Tribe came
up with a clever way to stay connected with other villages. Using the roots of the rubber fig tree,
they built strong, living bridges that can hold up to 50 people at once.

This type of bridge is made by twisting the aerial roots
(roots that grow above ground) of rubber fig trees around
temporary bridges made of bamboo or tree trunks, which
then rot away over time. Once the tree roots reach the
other side of the river, they are planted into the ground
so they can grow thicker and stronger. It can take about

15–20 years to build a living bridge, which can grow to more
than 164 ft (50 m) in length. The strongest living bridges are
more than 100 years old, with some believed to be more
than 500 years old. This double-decker bridge in Cherrapunji
is more than 180 years old, and the local people are now
adding a third level to it to attract more tourists.

The world of plants

How do
seeds
grow?
Plants are rooted to the spot, so to reproduce and
spread, flowering plants make seeds from which
new plants grow. A seed contains a tiny young
plant called an embryo, which lies dormant
(inactive) until it senses the perfect conditions
to germinate and grow into a new plant.

Germination ❯ A seed lies
dormant until it detects
moisture and warmth. It then
absorbs water from the soil,
and the seed springs to life, in a
process known as germination.

First root ❯ Most seeds begin
germination by sending a root
downward into the soil. The root
absorbs water and nutrients
from the soil and passes them
on to the developing shoot.

The right conditions
Seeds need ideal conditions—warmth, air,
and water—to germinate. Some need
darkness to sense they are properly
buried. Others need light to know they
are not buried too deep.

Young shoot ❯ Next, a young
shoot emerges from the seed,
growing upward until it breaks
out of the soil. It quickly
begins to make food
using sunlight.

Inside a seed
A seed is a perfectly packaged baby plant, called an embryo,
protected by a hard outer coat. The embryo has a root and a
shoot, and the first true leaves. It also has a food store for
the embryo in “seed leaves.”
Seed leaves ❯ The first leaf,
or pair of leaves, in a flowering
plant often looks very different
to the true leaves the seedling
will grow later. This is because
the seed leaves were part of the
embryo that lived inside the seed.

The first true leaves
will grow from this
growing shoot point.

A hard seed coat
protects the embryo
from damage.

The root of the
embryo grows first.

Seed leaves take up
much of the space
inside the seed.

Inside a seed

One leaf or two?
The seed case
still clings to
the young plant
as it emerges
from the ground.
New leaves will
form at the top
of the stem.

There are two main types of flowering
plants—monocots and dicots—named
for the number of seed leaves they
have. Monocot seeds contain one seed
leaf, while dicot seeds have two.
A single seed leaf
emerges from the
tip of the shoot.

Corn seed
(monocot)
The root has fine
hairs to help it absorb
even more water.

Two broad seed
leaves grow out
of a dicot seed.

Germinating
monocot seed

Bean
(dicot)

Germinating
dicot seed

Early germination
Sometimes seeds germinate before they have parted from
their parent plant. This early germination may take the form of
shoots growing on the outside of a fruit, as on this strawberry.
In other fruits, shoots may even burst through the fruit wall
from the seeds held inside.
Germinating seed

Seed shapes
if ied view

Hundreds of
seedlike fruits
are produced
per flower head.

Almost all the grain is
filled with starchy tissue.

This curved, bumpy
fruit is filled by a
single, curved seed.

Poppy

Barley

Sunflower

Pot
marigold
Coriander

Odd-shaped
seeds are
about 2–3 mm
across.

Beet

Love in
a puff

Yellow kernels
are rich in vitamins.

d
fe
g

Small, dry fruits
are used as a spice.

Black seeds have
a heart-shaped
white patch.

Wrinkled, oval
seeds are known
as stones or pits.

Coffee

Bright red
wings grow
up to 4 in
(10 cm) long.

Hair y
a pit -l ea
on

gn
Ma

Tiny, kidney-shaped
seeds are less than
1 mm in length.

Wide, thin wings
help this seed glide for
hundreds of feet.

Peach

Corn

Two coffee seeds, or
beans, are produced
in each red fruit of
the coffee plant.

Avocad

o

A juicy, red
coat surrounds
each seed.

Kiaat
Pomegranate

22

This round seed grows
up to 2½ in (6.5 cm) long.

A seed is a small package that protects a
young plant and contains all the nutrients
the plant will need to germinate. Although
all seeds do the same job, they come in a
wide range of shapes and sizes, to help
each one survive in its particular
environment and spread without being
eaten by hungry animals.

A circular, papery
wing surrounds this
spiky seed pod.

The giant coco de mer seed is able to hold
a lot of nutrients so that the new plant has
enough energy to grow out of its mother’s
shadow. The poppy has another survival
strategy—rather than one big seed, it produces
tens of thousands of tiny seeds to maximize
its chances. The spiky coats of the horse
chestnut seed and the kiaat seed pod

These massive seeds
are the largest and heaviest
in the world, weighing up
to 39 ½ lb (18 kg) each.

o de
mer

These glossy
seeds are protected
by a spiky shell.

Coc

Horse
chestnut
Flat, circular seeds are
a good source of protein.

Lentils

an
Jav

c
cu

um

be

r

deter hungry animals, while other seeds,
such as those of the avocado and peach,
are too hard for most plant eaters to munch.
Sometimes, what we think of as seeds are, in
fact, fruits with seeds inside, including those of
the sunflower, coriander, and pot marigold.

The world of plants

Bla

ck

be

rr

y

Juicy berries are
eaten by harvest
mice, which pass the
seeds in their poo.

Da n d e

Scattering
seeds

lion

When shaken, lotus
seeds fall from the
dried seed pod and
into the lake or pond in
which the plant grows.

Lotus

Spiky burdock seeds can
grow up to 1 in (3 cm) across.

Burdock

Between 90 and 110 feathery
bristles radiate outward to
form a parachute on every seed.

Plants are anchored by roots and can’t move from one
place to another. If they dropped their seeds where they
stood, the new plants would be in competition for nutrients
and sunlight. So plants have developed many ways to make
sure their seeds scatter far and wide to take advantage of new
places in which to grow. They use exploding seed pods,
animals, the wind, or even water to spread their seeds.

Up to 200 seeds
can be produced
by a single flower.

Single-winged
seeds spin like
helicopter rotors.

Al

de

r

When the flower head
dries out, it releases seeds
with silvery parachutes.

le
y ma p
Nor wa
Coconut fruits
are salt-proof and
float on seawater.

M
th ilk
ist
le

Woody scales of the
female catkin (flower spike)
open up to release seeds.

Cuipo seeds
have five wings,
which make them
spin as they fall.
Cuipo plants
sprout as soon as
their seeds land
on the forest floor.

Acorns are essential
fall food for many
animals, from squirrels
and woodpeckers to
deer, pigs, and bears.

Cu

Coconut

ip

o

Acorn

Wind and water carry seeds farthest. Dandelion
and milk thistle seeds have parachutes that
carry them on the breeze, while maple and
cuipo seeds catch the wind as they fall from
the tree canopy. Amazingly, coconut seeds can
travel hundreds of miles on ocean currents.
Animals are also important seed spreaders.

When animals eat fruit, the undigested seeds
inside the fruit pass through their droppings.
Burdock seeds are covered in hooks that get
caught in animal fur and transported. Squirrels
bury hundreds of acorns each fall to eat in
winter. The ones they forget about germinate
into new oak trees.

25

Iris

Tiny plantlets with roots
form along the fleshy leaves.

Min

t

The world of plants

Spreading
without seeds

Underground
stems can send out
new shoots around
the mother plant.

Spreading underground
stems are partially visible
through a thin layer of soil.

Plantlet

Stems grow
from the base
of the old tree.

Mot

her

of

th

Beech
ou

sa
nd
s
Each leaf can
produce dozens
of tiny plantlets.

26

Some plants have evolved ways to
spread quickly over an area without
seeds. To do this, they make perfect
copies of themselves using modified
stems, forming underground storage
organs, or growing baby plants on the
margins of their leaves.

Plants such as mint, strawberry, and bamboo
send out long stems, either just below or on top
of the soil, which can put down roots and grow
into whole new plants. The creeping underground
stems, or rhizomes, of some irises also send up
new plants as they spread. Other plants, such as
sweet potatoes, produce underground storage

Spi

These stems grow
roots and then
leaves to become
independent plants.

de

Parent plant sends
out horizontal stems
along the soil.
New bamboo shoots
can grow up to 35 in
(90 cm) in a day.

rp

la
nt

Strawberry

STEM RUNNERS
The strawberry plant produces long stems called
runners that run along or just under the soil. New
strawberry plants grow at the knots, or nodes, on the
runners, quickly colonizing an area with good soil.

Plantlets grow
on dangling stems.

Runners lay down roots
before new plants can grow.

New shoots
grow from marks
called “eyes.”

Parent plant

New plant

Fleshy root
tubers are popular
starchy foods.

Underground
stems spread
quickly, sending
up new shoots.

organs called tubers. If harsh weather
kills off their leaves, new plants can
regrow from the starchy tuber, using
it for food. Spider plants grow new
leaves at the tips of their hanging
flower stems, which quickly grow
roots when they detect that they

are touching the ground. The
mother of thousands plant takes
this even further, producing tiny
plantlets, complete with roots,
along the edges of its leaves. These
eventually drop off the mother
plant and grow around its base.

Bamboo

p o t a to
Sweet

The world of plants

The life
cycle of
a plant

8

1

Seeds lie dormant
(inactive) waiting
for the right conditions
to germinate.

Flowering plants may have a
life span of just months, or many
years. A poppy will germinate,
flower, set seed, and die within
a year and is known as an annual
plant. Other flowering plants live
for several years, building up the
food reserves they need and storing
it. These are called perennial plants.
The harsher the climate, the longer
it can take for a plant to complete
its life cycle.

The fruit
develops and
ripens. New seeds
are dispersed by the
wind, and the cycle
starts again.

2

Germination begins
when there is enough
water, warmth, and light for
the seeds to sprout their first
root and then a shoot.

Late bloomer
High in the cold Andes
Mountains of South America,
the queen of the Andes plant
grows very slowly. It takes over
80 years to bloom and grows a
spike nearly 30 ft (10 m) tall,
with up to 30,000 flowers,
dwarfing the surrounding
plants. After shedding
millions of seeds, it dies.
28

3

Seedlings begin to
produce leaves to gather
light and more roots to absorb
water from the soil to help
them grow.

4

Flower buds develop. In plants
that flower every year (annuals)
such as poppies, the bud can form
within a few weeks of germination.

Po

pp

y

7

As soon as a flower
is pollinated, it
sheds its petals. Seeds
form inside the fruit.

5

Protected within the green sepals
(leaf-shaped, and sometimes hairy,
structures at the base of a flower), the bud
grows colorful petals. When the flower is
ready to open, the petals burst out.

6

Once the petals open
up, insects, such as
bees, are attracted to the
sweet nectar inside and
pollinate the flower.

29

The world of plants

What is
a leaf?

Small netted veins ❯ Networks of
tiny veins connect the green tissues
of the leaf to the main vein inside
the midrib and the stem beyond.

Leaves are usually flat, green structures that
grow from plant stems. Although they come
in many shapes and sizes, almost all of them
capture sunlight and produce food for the
plant. Leaves get their green color from
a pigment called chlorophyll that uses
sunlight to produce food from the plant
in a process called photosynthesis.

pl

e

le

af

Stomata ❯ Tiny pores on the
underside of the leaf, called
stomata, open during the day to take
in carbon dioxide but close at night
to avoid losing too much water.

rs
Unde

ide

a
of

p

Petiole ❯ This is the stiff stalk connecting
the leaf to the plant stem. In some plants,
these stalks can help leaves move and
follow the sun in order to absorb more light.

30

Blade ❯ The flat part of the leaf is
called the leaf blade. It is the green
tissue that absorbs sunlight to make
the sugar the plant needs to grow.

Midrib ❯ Running along the center of the
leaf, this thickened area contains the central
vein. It also provides support to the leaf to
prevent it from bending and breaking.

Photosynthesis
Plants make their own food in a process called
photosynthesis. Their leaves contain a lightharvesting pigment called chlorophyll. This green
chemical uses the sun’s energy to convert carbon
dioxide from the air and water from the soil into
food (in the form of sugars) and oxygen.

Sunlight provides
the energy needed
for photosynthesis.

Carbon dioxide
enters the leaf.

Oxygen is
released as a
by-product.

Ap

ple

lea f

Sugar is produced in
green leaf tissues.

Water and minerals are
absorbed through the
roots and transported
up the stem.

Fall leaves
As fall approaches, the green pigment chlorophyll is
replaced at a slower rate than it is used up. The
reduced chlorophyll levels mean other leaf pigments,
including orange-yellow ones, become more
obvious. At the same time, plants start producing
red-purple pigments. These changes result in the
beautiful fall displays of leaf colors.
Vein ❯ Plant veins have two types of tubes
running through them. One type, called
xylem, carries water from the roots to the
shoots. The other type, known as phloem,
transports sugars around the plant.

Maple leaves in fall

Da

nd

Young leaves have five
sharp points, while older
leaves are rounder.

elio

n

The world of plants

Simple
leaves
Spearshaped

Engli
sh
iv y

Am

These jagged
leaves contain
a bitter milky
sap called latex.
Sugar maple leaves
turn red before falling
in autumn.

az

on

ian

wa
te

r li

ly

Divided
Circular
Leaves develop large
holes as the plant ages,
and can grow up to
35 in (90 cm) long.

Sw

Palm-shaped

Su

iss

gar

p
ma

le

-c

he
e se

plant
Veins grow from
the stalk at the
center of the leaf.

Oval-shaped

Spiky edges protect
the leaves from
grazing animals.

Heart-shaped

32

A leaf typically consists of a flat surface
called a blade, which carries a network of
veins. These veins support the leaves and
transport the water and minerals to them
from the rest of the plant. A simple leaf
has a single, undivided blade.

Nasturtium

Circular

Holly

Simple leaves come in many shapes and sizes,
and those best suited to their habitat are the most
likely to thrive. In wet rain forest conditions plants
have big leaves, while plants in drier locations
usually have small leaves. Some plants, such as
English ivy and ginkgo, change their leaf shape

Fan-shaped

go
Gink

Arrowshaped

Veins branch out
like a fan instead of
forming a network.
These giant leaves grow
up to 9 ft (3 m) across.

Eng

o
sh a k

li

English oak leaves,
which can grow up to 4 in
(10 cm) long, turn brown
and fall off in the autumn.

Eu
ca l y

ptus

Divided

Jagged edges
are more common
in leaves from
colder countries.

ea

r

Waxy leaves repel
water, so rainwater
flows quickly off this
rain forest plant.

c

h

S i l ve r b i r
Triangular

e
El
Lance-shaped

ph

’s

Thin, bladelike
leaves are common
in grass plants.

Linear

W

This leaf contains a
toxic oil to avoid being
eaten by predators.

t
an

he
at

as they grow and get more access to sunlight.
The Swiss-cheese plant and elephant’s ear
grow in rain forests so have waxy, pointy leaves
to help rainwater run off. Another rain forest plant,
the Amazonian water lily, has giant leaves that
spread across lakes to capture as much sunlight

as possible. Although the reasons
remain unclear, scientists believe the
jagged leaf edges of sugar maple and
silver birch may help keep them slightly
warmer than smooth edges would, allowing
the plants to grow faster in cool spring weather.

33

The world of plants

Compound
leaves
S e n s i t i ve p l a n
t

Leaflets fold shut
in about three
seconds if touched.

Stinking

to e

Tam

ari

Divided
twice

nd

Feathery leaves
turn a golden yellow
in the fall.

Two
leaflets

Lupi

Multiple leaflets

34

ne

Rounded lupine
leaves have up
to 17 leaflets.

Shiny green leaflets
look like a cow’s toes, but
this plant gets its name
from its stinky fruit.

Arranged
like a closed
fan when young;
the lupine’s leaves
unfold as
it grows.

A compound leaf is one that is divided into
two or more parts called leaflets. These
leaflets grow either along the stalk like
a feather or from a single point like a fan.
Compound leaves come in a wide range
of shapes and sizes.

Divided into an
even number of leaf lets

Oval leaflets
fold up at
night and open
during the day.

A compound leaf has separate leaflets with
less individual surface area than a simple leaf.
In a dry region, this helps the plant to reduce
the amount of water lost through evaporation.
Compound leaves, like that of the lupine, flutter
less in windy conditions than simple leaves,

Hone y locust

Veins from
the main leaf
stalk run through
each leaflet.

Divided into an odd
number of leaf lets
Four heart-shaped
leaflets grow
from a single stalk.

Five leaflets

Horse chestnut
Four-leaved
pink sorrel

Four
leaf lets

r

fe

rn

Silvery undersides
of the leaves give this
fern its name.

Si

lv

e

Flat leaf stalk
looks like a second
leaf below the true leaf.

Leaf stalk (bottom)
looks like true leaf

Pomelo

LONGEST LEAF

Divided twice

A whitish, V-shaped
band is typical in
white clover leaflets.

Raffia palm
leaves grow
a whopping
82 ft (25 m)
long—more
than twice
as long as a
school bus.

White
clover

making them less likely to break off. Having
compound leaves can also help the plants avoid
being eaten. Leaflets of the sensitive plant
quickly fold up if touched by hungry animals,
while tamarind leaflets close up at night to
appear smaller and less tasty to plant eaters.

82 ft (25 m) long
Raffia palm leaf

Three leaflets

Some compound leaves grow very quickly,
which helps trees, such as the honey locust,
harness as much sunlight as possible before losing
their leaves in the fall. The pomelo has a rare type
of compound leaf with a flat stalk that looks like
a second leaf, which also helps capture sunlight.

35

The world of plants

Plants with
patterns

The lighter patches cannot
make energy from sunlight,
slowing the growth of this plant.

These light pink
flowers have deeper
blotches of color on the
upper two petals.

But

White marks look
like damage done by
a leaf-mining insect.

Areas over the veins
do not make the red
coloring, or pigment,
so they look white.

Geranium

t e r f l y a ve
ga

An

ge
l

win

gs
White spots mimic water
damage to protect the leaf
against being eaten.

g

o

Fl

36

am

in

Multicolored plants—also known as
variegated plants—are popular with
gardeners but are rare in nature. It’s the
green parts of the leaves that trap sunlight
to harvest its energy, so white or yellow
patches slow plant growth down.

li

p

lil

y

The color-breaking
stripes are caused by
a viral infection.

Tu

Virginia waterleaf

Gardeners have cultivated plants with
patterned leaves and flowers because
they look beautiful. The outlined leaves
of the butterfly agave and holly and
the attractive flowers of geranium,
flamingo lily, and dahlia are very rare

R ose

g

a

White patches do
not have the ability
to make color.

Be

i
on

t

P ra y
er

pl

an

Begonias
produce seeds
so small they

The silvery patches can
produce food, too, helping
this plant grow.

These spiky leaves
are very hardy. The
holly plant can grow up
to 50 ft (15 m) in height.

look like
dust.

Holly

Prayer plant leaves
come in many patterns,
from mosaic to striped.

Purple-blue flowers
are marked with white
spots of different sizes
and resemble a starry
night sky.

Da h l

ia

Only the tips of
this flower make
the pink pigment.

in wild plants. In the 17th century, striped
tulip flowers were very fashionable in the
Netherlands and sold for huge amounts of
money. It was later found that the delicate
markings on the tulips were actually the
result of a viral infection. Angel wings and

Petunia

Virginia waterleaf are among the few
plants that have naturally patterned leaves.
Both have white spots on their leaves,
which make them appear damaged and
less appetizing. This greatly reduces the
chance of insects eating their leaves.

37

SYMMETRICAL SWIRLS

Twirl a sunflower around in your
fingers and the pattern at the center
of the flower head looks the same from every side. This is because the sunflower head is radially
symmetrical—the florets form two sets of spirals starting at the same point somewhere in the center
of the flower, before turning in opposite directions, one clockwise and the other counterclockwise.

Radial symmetry appears throughout the plant world, from
daisies to pine cones. The spirals follow a pattern known as
the Fibonacci sequence, named after the Italian mathematician
who discovered it. In this sequence, each number is the sum
of the previous two. The pattern starts 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21,
and so on. The reason why Fibonacci numbers are common

in nature is because this is the best way to pack the most
flowers, leaves, or seeds into a tight space. A sunflower head
is made up of many tiny florets—the dark rods in the picture
are opened florets, while those in the center are unopened
ones. Each new floret grows at an angle to the previous one,
leaving no gaps and maximizing its exposure to pollinators.

The world of plants

Selfdefense

Animals can run from their predators, but
plants have no way of escaping hungry
plant eaters. Instead, they have developed
some clever ways of making themselves
look and taste as unappealing or dangerous
as possible, encouraging animals to look
elsewhere for a meal. Plant defenses range
from spiky thorns to toxic chemicals.
Spiky leaf edges protect
these succulent leaves.

Needlelike crystals
line the blue agave’s
leaves, making them an
unpleasant mouthful.

Cam

Silver-gray crystals

el tho
rn

Tea leaves contain tannin,
a bitter-tasting chemical that
deters animals from eating them.

Blue agave

Fully developed
thorns may
grow up to 2 1 ⁄4 in
(6 cm) long.

Spines on the stem
protect the plant from
hungry animals.

Tea

These swollen parts
provide hollow homes
for ants that help
ward off predators,
protecting the plant.

40

Ant fern

Lamb’s ear

Thistle

These woolly
leaves are difficult
for insects to munch.

To deter predators, some plants, including
the camel thorn, produce sharp branches
called thorns, while others, such as gorse,
make sharp leaves known as spines.
Prickles are extensions of the stems of
plants such as roses. Another plant defense
strategy is the use of chemicals. Plants,
such as tea, common milkweed, and

blue agave, produce nasty-tasting or irritating
chemicals to put off any animal that takes a
bite. The spots on passion flower leaves are
a clever defense called mimicry—the
plant’s leaves pretend to be infested
by butterfly eggs, which deters
real butterflies from looking
for a “healthy” leaf.

Common
milkweed

The gummy
white sap of this
flowering plant is
toxic to many
plant-eating
mammals.

Passion f lower

Thorns grow up
to 3 in (7 cm) long.

Leaf spots resemble
yellow butterfly eggs.

Whistling
thorn acacia

The stiff spines that cover
the plant can be up to
2½ in (6.5 cm) long.

Go

Small
birds nest

in spiky
gorse bushes to
protect themselves
from predators.

rs

e

Buds contain yellow
flowers with a
coconut scent.

ng
gi
in tle
St net

Needlelike
hairs can inject
a painful mix
of chemicals.

Stinging hairs

R os

e

Stems and leaves
are covered in tiny
stinging hairs.

Ants live inside
these swollen thorns,
protecting the plant
from herbivores.

Downwardpointing prickles
grow on the
stems of roses to
deter predators
from climbing up.

41

The world of plants

Plants and
nitrogen
Plants use the energy of sunlight to turn
carbon dioxide and water into the sugars
they need to help them grow. To do this,
they also need proteins that contain
nitrogen. Although this vital gas makes
up two-thirds of the air we breathe,
plants cannot absorb nitrogen from the
air. Instead, they rely on tiny organisms
in the soil to make nitrates both from
the nitrogen in the air and from the
decaying remains of living things.

Nitrogen cycle

All plants, animals, and other living things contain
nitrogen. When they die, their remains are broken
down by fungi and bacteria. This eventually forms
nitrates, which plants can use to make proteins that
can be eaten by animals. Nitrogen is recycled
continuously between the air, soil, and living things
in this way—a process called the nitrogen cycle.

1

Nitrogen gas enters the soil
from the air. Lightning can
also change nitrogen gas into nitrates.

3

2

Plants absorb nitrates
dissolved in the water that
their roots soak up from the soil.
They use the nitrates to make the
proteins essential for growth.

Some bacteria in the soil
can change nitrogen gas into
ammonia, which can be turned
into nitrates. Similar bacteria,
called nitrogen-fixing bacteria, live
in the roots of plants such as peas.

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria

Nitrogen deficiency

Nitrogen-deficient grape leaf

4

Animals, such as cows, eat plants.
They digest the plant proteins to make
the animal proteins their bodies need.

5

Animal waste, such as
dung and urine, returns
nitrogen-containing compounds
that can be turned into nitrates
to the soil.

7

6

Decomposing fungi

Some fungi and
bacteria living in
the soil feed on animal
waste, or on the decaying
remains of dead animals
and plants. They break
down nitrogen-containing
compounds to release
nitrates into the soil.

Some kinds of
bacteria in the soil
turn nitrates back into
nitrogen gas, which is
released into the air.

Plants and nitrogen

If a plant is short of nitrogen, it
cannot make enough protein and
does not grow properly. It also cannot
make enough of the chlorophyll
that makes its leaves green, and
the edges of its leaves turn pale
or even yellow.

NONFLOWERING
PLANTS

Nonflowering plants

Nonflowering
plants
The most ancient land plants on Earth are the nonflowering plants
that evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. The earliest were
simple plants such as liverworts, mosses, and hornworts, which grow
in damp places to avoid drying out. Ferns are more complex but still
have to live in moist environments. Instead of producing seeds, almost
all nonflowering plants reproduce using tiny spores, which are carried
away by wind or water. Only the gymnosperms, a group of nonflowering
plants that includes conifers, produce seed-bearing cones instead.

Moss life cycle
A moss’s spore capsule releases spores into the wind.
When they land, they grow into leafy shoots with tiny sex
organs. When it rains, male sperm cells are able to reach
eggs and fertilize them. Each fertilized egg grows a new
shoot, and the cycle continues.
Spore capsule

Male

Female

2. Sex organs develop
1. Scattering spores
Raindrops allow male sperm
cells to swim over to the eggs.
Spore-producing
shoot

4. Spore capsule grows

3. Fertilization

Food factory ❯ The green
leaflike part of this moss,
called the gametophyte,
produces food using energy
from sunlight. It does not
contain veins to transport
water and nutrients, but its
surface is so thin that these
simply soak through.

Nonflowering plants
Capsule ❯ A spore-producing capsule forms at
the tip of each threadlike sporophyte. When the
spores are mature, the lid of the capsule breaks
off to reveal an opening, through which the
spores are released. Every capsule contains
hundreds of thousands of tiny spores, which
are carried off on the wind.

Liverwort
The first land
plants were the tiny
liverworts, which
appeared around
470 million years ago.
Around 9,000 liverwort
species exist today.

Moss
Mosses grow in fluffy
clumps, often in shady
areas. Although they
may look similar,
12,000 different
types of mosses exist
around the world.

Ca p

illar

y th
read

m os

s

Brown sporophytes do not
make their own food, relying on
the green gametophyte instead.

Hornwort
These humidityloving plants,
which are named
for their horn-shaped
sporophytes, can
even grow under water.

Club moss
The spore-producing
brown spikes of club
mosses are held on
mosslike stems, but
unlike mosses, the
green parts are
the sporophytes.

Horsetails
Horsetails have thin,
hairlike leaves that
run up their stems
like a bottlebrush,
and produce spores
in conelike structures
at the stem tip.

Sporophyte ❯ The sporeproducing, columnlike structure
rising from the green body of
the moss is a sporophyte.
It starts to grow when a female
egg cell is fertilized by a
male sperm cell.

47

Com

m a ri sk m
n ta
os s
o
m

Spore-producing
stems grow upright,
allowing the spores to fly
over a greater distance.

Star-shaped shoots
range from a yellow-green
to a reddish brown color.

These feathery
shoots look like
tiny fern fronds.

Forest star mos
s

Twisted
moss

This tiny, leafy
liverwort grows
on damp soil.

Mosses absorb
water and nutrients
from rain and dust.

Marsh
clubmoss

Glossy shoots
give this plant
its name.

Common
kettlewort

G l i t te
r
wood m ing
os
s

Nonflowering plants

Ancient
plants

The first animals lived in a world filled with
plants, but this vegetation looked different to
what we see around us today. The earliest
dinosaurs would not have seen flowers, and
the plant eaters would have chewed mosses
and horsetails instead of grasses. Many of
these ancient plants have disappeared, but
some continue to thrive today.

complex, leaflike shoots, like those of the
modern tamarisk moss and the glittering
wood moss. Without veins to carry water
and nutrients from the soil to the shoots, these
plants remain small. However, club mosses and
horsetails, such as the marsh clubmoss, fir
clubmoss, and meadow horsetail, have veins
running up their stems and so grow taller.

HEALING MOSS

Spongelike moss
can store huge
amounts of water.

Sphagnum moss is absorbent and very acidic,
so it prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi.
During World War I (1914–1918), bandages
were sometimes wrapped around sphagnum
moss and used as dressings for soldiers. This
stopped their wounds from becoming infected
and helped them heal faster.

Common haircap

um

Dressing made of
sphagnum moss

This unusually tall
moss can grow up
to 15 3 ⁄4 in (40 cm).

a
Sph

gn

Sphagnum bandage roll

Scientists
study the
common liverwort
to learn how

These tiny upright
stems look like
little conifers.

plants
evolved.

The young plants
growing inside these
cups are splashed
out by raindrops.

Common
liverwort

Mead
h o r setow
a

il

Each capsule
produces thousands
of tiny spores.

Fir clubmoss

he

Cuplike structure

Velv
et
mofea
ss t

r-

Spore-producing
cones grow at the
tips of fertile stems.

Ancient plants

The first land plants appeared around the same
time as the first insects. The earliest liverworts,
relatives of the common kettlewort and
common liverwort, evolved about 470 million
years ago. They did not have roots, stems, or
flowers but lived in damp places and simply
absorbed water through their surface. Later came
hornworts and mosses, many of which had more

Nonflowering plants

Frond ❯ Fern leaves are called fronds.
These are usually divided into smaller
sections, which increases the leaf ’s
surface area so it can capture more
sunlight. Fronds not only carry out
photosynthesis, using the energy
from sunlight to make food
for the fern, but they are also
important for reproduction.

Male fern

Pinna ❯ Each small segment
of a fern frond growing
from the central stalk, or
rachis, is called a pinna.

What is
a fern?
50

Ferns are nonflowering plants that
do not produce seeds. Instead, they
reproduce using tiny spores, which
are carried on the wind. Fern leaves
are known as fronds, and they grow
from underground stems. Spores are
made on the underside of fronds.

Fiddlehead ❯ New
fronds develop as
tightly curled spirals
called fiddleheads, which
unfurl as the leaf grows.

Root ❯ The roots of ferns
are very similar to those of
flowering plants. They absorb
water and nutrients from the
soil and help anchor the fern
into the ground.

Sori ❯ Spores are produced in
brown structures called sori on the
underside of the fronds. These sori
can be arranged in speckles or
lines, depending on the type of fern.

What is a fern?

Rachis ❯ The top part of the
stalk is known as the rachis.
It is the backbone of the frond.

Fossilized fern

Stipe ❯ The stiff stem at the
bottom of the plant is known as
the stipe. It is often covered with
scales or hairs, for protection.

Ferns first appeared almost 360 million years ago, among
mossy swamps. Some large, treelike ferns had fronds as long
as 93 ⁄4 ft (3 m). The fossil below shows an extinct fern that
looks very similar to modern ferns, such as the male fern.

Rhizome ❯ The main stem of most ferns
is known as the rhizome. It sits either on
the soil’s surface or just below, although
in some tree ferns the stems can develop
into a tall, woody trunk. The fronds of
the fern emerge from the rhizome,
which is often too short to be seen.

The comblike
arrangement of leaflets
earns this fern its name
Pecopteris—the Greek
word for comb.
Pecopteris fern fossil

51

Fern
fronds

Mal

e fe r n

These simple fronds
are said to look
like deer tongues.

This feather-shaped
fern is native to much
of Europe, Asia, and
North America.

Furled fronds are known as
fiddleheads because they look
like the scrolls of violins.

Har

t’s to
ngue
fe r n

Sof

t s h i e l d fe r n

Brown, spore-producing
specks on the underside
are called sori.

rn

it

fe

ike

ft

ee

ha b

So

tr

Japanese
h o l ly fe r n

Clumps of fronds
grow from a short
stem at the base.

el

e
Tr

52

Ferns are among the most primitive land plants. As most
live on shady forest floors, they make large leaves, called
fronds, to help them gather as much sunlight as possible.
Many ferns share a distinctive leaf shape, with leaflets
that divide, and then divide again. Ferns do not produce
flowers. Instead, they grow tiny spores on the underside
of their leaves, which are blown by the wind and eventually
grow into new plants.

o
m
Co m nha
e
maid

Several fan-shaped
leaflets form each frond.

t
ar

n

fe

rn

l e a f fe r n

rn
A n t fe

These glossy leaves
can be heart- or
arrow-shaped.

Fossil
records show
that ferns
date back

e
nes
Japa fer n
te d
pain

360 million
years.

Leaf segments
unfurl as the main
stalk unrolls.

The feathery
fronds of this
plant resemble
carrot leaves.

rn
r o t fe

The tall clumping
leaves can unfurl to
67 in (170 cm) long.

Car

Ostric h f
er
n

He

ir

The leaves of this
fern are silvery in
spring and green
in summer.

Spore-producing
cups line the edges
of each frond.

ac
Br

ke

n

Tufts of bracken
thrive in open forests
and pastures.

Bracken on forest floor

There are about 10,500 known
species of ferns some of which have
simple undivided fronds, such as
those of the hart’s tongue fern and
the heart leaf fern. Most are green,
but a few have unusual colors, like
the purple-veined, silvery leaves of the
Japanese painted fern. In many

species, the spore-producing brown regions
on the underside of fronds are arranged in
distinct patterns or shapes, such as the lines
of speckles on the Japanese holly fern.
The tiny spores are usually carried away by
the wind, although ants living in the hollow
stems of the ant fern may also help this
plant spread its spores.

DINOSAUR DIET

Until about 140 million years ago, there were no flowering
plants anywhere on Earth. Some gigantic plant-eating
dinosaurs of the Jurassic period browsed in the treetops for the tough, fibrous foliage of pine trees
that existed at the time. Others reached down to pluck the fronds of low-growing and nutritious
ferns and horsetails.

During this time, the climate was warm and moist almost
everywhere, with no polar ice. This encouraged the growth
of dense forests of conifers, ginkgos, club mosses, cycads,
and tree ferns that covered much of the land. Dinosaurs such
as these two Diplodocus, which lived in what is now North
America, had long, flexible necks for stretching high into

the trees to feed. They could even rear up on their hind legs
for extra height. Similar to modern elephants, they also would
have broken down a lot of trees, creating open areas where
smaller plants such as ferns could flourish. Diplodocus fed on
these, too, combing the stems through their peglike teeth to strip
away the green foliage and gulping it down without chewing.

Nonflowering plants

What is
a conifer
cone?

Closed cone scales ❯ The female
cones contain ovules (clusters
of female cells) that will develop
into seeds if they are fertilized
by pollen. Blown on the wind,
the pollen grains are small
enough to slip between the
scales and enter each ovule.

A conifer cone contains the male
or female cells of conifer trees. In
nonflowering plants such as pine
trees, cones are the equivalent of
a flower. The seeds of conifers are
not contained in fruits but develop
between the scales of the pollinated
female cones. The scales protect the
seeds until they are fully developed,
then open up to release their seeds.

Male and female cones
The tough scales enclose
ovules, which form on
thin scales inside.
Pollen sac

Ovule

These soft scales carry
pollen sacs that contain
the pollen grains.
Male cone

Female cone

Most conifer trees have separate male and female cones. The long,
soft male cones produce pollen, while the woody female cones
contain ovules that will become seeds when fertilized. The pollen
grains are tiny, like dust, so they are easily blown on the wind.

56

Closed Austrian pine cone

Other cone-bearing trees

Welwitschia Found only in the Namib
Desert in Africa, these plants are either male
or female. Although not true conifers, the
females have seed-bearing cones.

Ginkgo These trees are either male or female.
The males have pollen-bearing cones, but the
females produce seeds that swell up to look
like the fruits of flowering trees.

What is a conifer cone?

Cycads Sometimes living for 1,000 years,
these slow-growing, palmlike plants
develop structures called strobili, which
are similar to conifer cones.

Open cone scales ❯ When the
seeds inside a cone are ready, dry
weather triggers the cones to open
up or even fall off the tree, so the
wind can blow the seeds away.

Tough, woody scales grow
all around the cone. They
open slightly to allow
fertilization and then
close again to protect
the developing seeds.

Open Austrian pine cone

Cross section of
a female cone

Seed ❯ Conifer seeds
can take up to two
years to mature. They
are attached to thin
scales that act like
wings, allowing the
seeds to be carried
away in the wind
when the time is right.

Winged
seed

57

Pines and needles
Needles can stay
green for more
than 45 years.

Cedar needles contain
oils used in perfumes
and colognes.

Tufts of needles

ris

tlecone
pine

The smallest of all pines,
this tree usually grows only up
to 10 ft (3 m) in height.

B

Siberian
dwarf pine

Atlas cedar

This Asian
cedar has distinctive
drooping branches.
This tree gets
its name from the
use of its foliage
during Christmas
in Mexico.

Bristlecone
pines can live
for more than

5,000 years.

Deodar cedar

58

The pine family contains more than 200
types of conifer trees, including pines, firs,
spruces, larches, and cedars. Although they
may look similar, these cone-bearing trees
have distinct patterns of needlelike leaves
that can be used to tell them apart.

Sacred fir

The needles of pines, including those of the
bristlecone pine and sugar pine, grow in
clusters of two to five—each cluster from a
single bud. Cedar needles, such as those of the
Lebanon cedar, also grow in clusters, but these
may contain 15–45 needles and are typically

Young silver fir trees are
often used as Christmas
trees in Europe.
Needles grow
in bunches of
five and can be
4 in (11 cm) long.

Sharply pointed
needles
This slow-growing
but resilient tree
has a life span of
150–600 years.

Short needles turn
golden yellow and
orange in fall.

Blue spruce

European
silver fir

Tamarack
larch

This wide-spreading tree
can reach up to 130 ft (40 m)
in height. It is the national
emblem of Lebanon and
appears on its flag.

Whorls of
needles

Lebanon cedar

shorter than pine needles. Firs, such as the
European silver fir, have flat needles that
grow individually from the branch. Spruces,
including the blue spruce and the sitka
spruce, have sharp four-sided needles. Larch
needles are particularly unusual because,

Sitka spruce

unlike most conifers, they are not
evergreen but deciduous. In fall, the light
blue-green needles of the tamarack
larch change color before falling off,
turning the wooded mountains
glorious golden colors.

Sugar pine

This tall tree
can grow rapidly,
reaching more
than 310 ft (95 m)
in height.

Conifer cones
Mon

ke y

p

le
uzz

tre

e (m

ale

)
Male pollen cones grow
up to 6 in (15 cm) in length.

Tightly closed woody
cones face down
on branches.

Lodgepole
pine

Female cones produce
seeds about 18 months
after pollination.

( fe

ma

le)

These giant cones
can weigh up to
11 lb (5 kg).

Wol

p
le mi

in

e

Eur

op

la
ean

rc h

Young red cones
turn brown before
releasing seeds.

Coulter pine
Red female cones sometimes
grow 20 in (50 cm) long.

Zululand cycad

Male cones can
take up to a year to
ripen, turn brown,
and release pollen.

Round, green
cones turn purple
when ripe.

Thick, leathery
leaves change color
from bronze to green
as they mature.

Each of these
small yellow
cones produces
a single seed.

Outeniqua yellowwood

60

Kauri (male)

Conifer trees bear cones instead of
flowers. All conifers have separate male
and female cones, which sometimes
grow on different trees. Male cones
make pollen, while female cones, when
pollinated, produce seeds. Cones come
in many shapes, sizes, and colors, but
all are pollinated by wind.

Common juniper

Conifers have a few tricks for
dispersing their seeds. Some, such
as the Outeniqua yellowwood
and common juniper, make fleshy,
berrylike cones. Birds eat the cones
and spread the seeds in their
droppings. Other conifers need
specific conditions for seed dispersal.

CONE SIZE

r uce
y sp

These blue
female cones
stand upright on
top of branches.

( fe m a l e )

Colorful
pollen cones
are only 4 ⁄5 in
(2 cm) long.

dinosaurs from
eating them.

This soft-scaled
cone grows up to
3 in (8 cm) long.

P i tc h p i n e ( m a l e )

At
las
(m cedar
ale)

Korean
fir

The female cones of the kauri break
apart and release seeds when mature,
while lodgepole pine cones do not
open until they feel the strong heat of a
fire. The female cones of the sugar pine
open only in dry weather, so their light
seeds are blown far and wide without
moisture in the air weighing them down.

Conifer cones

P i n e a p p l e za m i a

r wa

“armored
up” to prevent

No

)

Sugar pine (d
r y)

Sugar pin
e ( we
t

Cones

Green cones
produce bright
orange seeds.

The pink female
cones of this spruce are
6 in (15 cm) tall and the
largest of the spruces.

Scales open in dry
conditions to release
winged seeds up to
11 ⁄2 in (4 cm) long.

may have

26 in (66 cm)

The sugar pine grows the
world’s longest conifer
cones—more than four
times longer than a
human hand.

FLOWERING
PLANTS

Flowering plants

What is
a flower?

Stigma ❯ This is the female
part of the flower and has
either a sticky tip or fine
hairs to trap pollen.

Many plants rely on animals, such as bees
and hummingbirds, to help them reproduce.
To attract these animals, many plants have
flowers that are brightly colored, have a sweet
scent, and produce a sugary nectar for them
to eat. When the animal visits the flower to find
the nectar, it becomes covered in pollen. The
animal, known as a pollinator, then transports
the pollen to another flower.

Pollen ❯ The fine yellow grains
of pollen, found on a tubular
structure called an anther, contain
the plant’s male sex cells.

Fertilization

Stamen ❯ Each stamen has a long
filament with an anther on the top
where the pollen is produced.

Pollen
Stigma

Style

A pollen tube grows
down through the style.

Petals ❯ Colorful, often
scented, petals attract
pollinating animals to the
flower. Petals come in all
shapes and sizes and often
look brighter to insect eyes
than to human eyes.

The ovary contains
the female reproductive
organs of the flower.

The ovule is fertilized
by the pollen to become
a new plant.

Pollination
When pollen lands on a flower’s stigma, it grows a tiny tube that
travels through the style, taking the male pollen cells to the ovary.
The male cells join with female cells, in the ovules, which become
the seeds. This process is called fertilization.
64

A tiger lily has colorful petals and sugary
nectar for animals such as this bee to eat. As it
feeds, the bee brushes against the pollen, which
sticks to its body. Pollen contains male cells.
When the bee visits another tiger lily, the pollen
will brush onto the new flower’s stigma, and grow
towards the female cells. This is called pollination.

Pollen sticks to the
hairs of visiting bees.

Some bees collect balls of
pollen on their hind legs
and transport it back to
the hive for food.

What is a flower?

Anther

The style is the stalk that
supports the stigma.

Nectar ❯ Many flowers produce a
sweet liquid called nectar at the
base of the petals to attract
pollinators such as bees.

Ovule

Tiger lily

A stalk supports
the flower.

Ovary ❯ This part of the flower
contains female sex cells, which
are fertilized by the pollen. After
fertilization, the ovary develops
into a fruit, with the seeds inside.

65

a n g i p a ni
Fr

i se

r puf f

ar
ad

de

f-p

Red p
ow

Rotate

Fo
x

Bi

Red stamens make the flower
look like a fluffy pompom.

Spherical

gl

rd

-o

Flowering plants

Flower forms
The sweet-smelling
frangipani is used to make
flower necklaces in Hawaii.

ov e
The flower
buds at the
top open last.

Orange and
purple flowers
attract sunbirds,
which stand on
the thick green
perch to access
the sweet nectar.

Spots
inside the

foxglove
flowers guide
bees to the
nectar.
Pale yellow flowers
bloom all over Europe
during spring.

Pri

Irregular

m

ax
W ant
pl

r

os
e

Bell-shaped

66

Flat-topped tube

Plants have flowers that come
in a variety of sizes and colors.
Botanists (plant scientists) study a
flower’s shape to better understand
how it may be pollinated, by bees,
bats, birds, or a breeze!

A green,
beaklike bract
protects the
flowers.

Thick, waxy petals can
withstand tropical storms.

Star-shaped

Some plants, such as primrose, frangipani,
and poppy, have simple, open flower shapes
that are perfect for a quick visit from an insect.
Others make dense clusters of flowers called
inflorescences to provide more of a meal for
pollinators. For example, the red powderpuff

The delicate flower has
a lovely, sweet fragrance.

K
in
g
pr
o te
a

ea

Flower forms

Pea-shaped

S

Ar u

Cream-colored
flower spikes are up
to 4 in (11 cm) across.

Gueld

Small
flowers
on spike

er

Composite

ro

Re

se

The stem of the
guelder rose is smooth,
not thorny like a true
rose plant.

y

Cup-shaped
A hairy bud
protects the
growing flower.

Funnel-shaped

Tube-shaped

Saucer-shaped

makes a ball of tiny stamens to attract bees
and butterflies, while the king protea and
red hot poker coat the faces of visiting birds
with a dusting of pollen when they feed. The
bird-of-paradise also provides a feast for
visiting birds, covering their feet with pollen

er

Purple flowers
grow from the edges
of the pink bracts.

ok

Popp

tp

Four large
petals form
a cup shape.

n k quill

d
ho

Pi

tp

Small flowers fill the
center of these massive
blooms, which can grow
up to 12 in (30 cm) across.

m l i ly

A spike of tiny
yellow flowers
is surrounded by a
white, petal-like bract.

e
we

The petals change
color from orange to
yellow as they open.

as they perch on the flower. Other plants
make a special, often colorful, petal-like leaf
called a bract, to attract many pollinators.
Hummingbirds are drawn to the showy bracts
of the pink quill, while the white bract of the
arum lily attracts many insects.

Flowering plants

Pollinators

This day-flying moth uses its strawlike
mouthpart—which is about as long as its
body—to drink nectar from flowers of
many shapes and sizes.

bi
th r d

The long beak
reaches into the flower,
and the bird’s head is
dusted with pollen.

g
in o
m
Hu m k- m
h aw

The tiny wings of the hummingbird can
flap many times in a second, allowing the
bird to hover in one place as it feeds.

b

le b

ee

y

po

ssum

Pyg

Bell-shaped,
yellow flowers
remain closed
unless forced open
by a pollinator.

Bu

m

The waxy bract of the
banana flower bud curves
back to give birds easy
access to the flower inside.

m

g
in
ew ird
b

V io
hu let
m sa
m br
in
g

La

dy

The possum’s
excellent climbing
skills help it run
up and down
flowering trees.

bu

g
Beetle-pollinated
flowers make a lot
of pollen that stick to
these clumsy insects.
As the bumblebee
opens up the flower
and scrambles inside to
get to the nectar, its fuzzy
hairs collect pollen.

68

Although insects are the most common
pollinators, larger animals such as birds
and bats also play a vital role in pollination.
In return, plants provide sweet nectar.
Different flower shapes, colors, and
smells attract specific pollinators.

This eucalyptus tree
flowers in winter, relying on
mammals for pollination at a
time when insects are scarce.

Bees and butterflies visit fragrant, brightly
colored flowers, which grow in clusters or
have large petals for the insects to land on.
Many moths prefer white or very pale flowers
that open at night, following their sweet floral
scents to find them in the dark. Beetles, such

t

te
rf

Strong, grasping
claws help the parrot
hang onto the branch
while drinking nectar.

lie
s

Lesser long-nose

ut

d

ba

B

The flower heads of
buddleia are so popular
with butterflies that
it is known as the
butterfly bush.

The bat’s flexible
tongue helps it reach
deep inside a flower.

or

ik

ee

t

Flexible stigmas
collect pollen from
the lorikeet’s head.

Ra

in

w
bo

l

These tubular saguaro cactus
flowers cover the bat’s nose in pollen
as it reaches inside to drink nectar.

NECTAR GUIDES
Unlike humans, bees can see ultraviolet (UV) light. Many
flowers, such as this marsh marigold, may appear plain
to us, but under UV light, we can see how the petals have
dark patterns that guide insects to their nectar and pollen.

More
than 500

species
of plants are

pollinated
by bats.
Under normal light

Under UV light

as ladybugs, also pollinate pale-colored flowers
but choose fruity-smelling blooms. These flowers
mimic the scent of ripe fruit to trick beetles into
visiting them for food. Of the larger pollinators,
birds are attracted to bright, day-flowering
blossoms. Hummingbirds favor reddish flowers,

but these tend not to be scented, since birds do
not have a sense of smell. The petals of birdpollinated flowers are usually bent back to allow
the animals easy access. Bats pollinate some
night-flowering plants and are attracted to large,
pale flowers with a musty smell.

69

ot f l
o we r

Looks
familiar
Indian pipe

Par
r

The bright pink
outer petals resemble
love hearts.

Asia

The showy flowers
look like flying
parrots with little
green “beaks.”

n bleeding hear t

Skull-shaped seed pods
appear after flowering.

These ghostly
white parasitic
plants grow into
the roots of trees
to steal food.

Snapdragon
Two red petals fan out
like a pair of ears from the
purple, bat-faced center.

Da

r

th
er
Vad

plant
The helmet-shaped
flowers smell like rotting
flesh to attract flies.

70

Naked man
orchid

These fun flowers look like animals
and other objects, from birds to love
hearts. While most of these similarities
are only a coincidence, in some cases,
the resemblance has evolved to attract
potential pollinators.

The purple flowers look
like little people, complete
with arms and legs.

Bat-faced cuphea

Many of the unique and colorful flowers shown
here belong to the orchid family, which consists
of thousands of different plants. This includes the
naked man orchid, the dancing lady orchid,
and the white egret flower. The bee orchid
flower, which looks like a female bee, attracts

A
bee orchid’s
fragrance can
trick a male bee
into thinking it
is meeting a
female.

The delicate white
petals resemble the
outstretched wings of
a heronlike white bird
called an egret.

Looks familiar

These masses of pollen
stick to the bee’s head, to be
transferred to the next flower.

White egret
flower
The red leaflike bracts
attract hummingbirds
to pollinate the
flowers inside.

Hot lips

Bee orchid

Large duck
orc hid

The pink sepals look
like wings, and the
flower even has a fuzzy,
“hairy” body like a bee.

The duck’s “head”
curls down over visiting
insects to deposit
pollen on them.

The large, ruffled
petal of this
chocolate-scented
flower looks like a
dancer’s gown.

male bees, attaching packages of pollen
to them in the process. The large duck
orchid looks more like a female sawfly than
a duck to male sawflies, luring these pollinators.
While many of these eye-catching plants are
popular with gardeners, too great a market

The labellum, or lip,
traps pollinating insects.

Dancing lady orchid

demand can place a strain on
rarer species. For this reason, the
government of Thailand has banned
the export of the rare parrot flower
plant and its seeds to protect its
dwindling numbers in the wild.

71

RIVER OF BLOSSOM

A bird’s-eye view of Inokashira Park in Tokyo, Japan,
reveals the waters of the pond running through it are
pink with the petals of the spectacular cherry trees that line its banks. Families and friends take picnics
to the park and sit beneath the trees to eat, drink, listen to music, and enjoy the beauty of the
blossoms. Later, lanterns hung in the branches are lit, and festivities carry on into the night.

At the start of every year, the Japanese weather office
monitors the temperature and conditions to try to predict
when the cherry trees, called sakura, will bloom. The
trees blossom first in the warmer south of Japan, and
the “blossom front” spreads up the country, moving north
as spring advances. The blossom forecasts are important

because thousands of people celebrate flower-viewing
parties, a Japanese tradition, known as hanami, that dates
back to the 8th century. The trees will carry their blossoms
for only a week or two, and people need to plan their
festivities. In Japanese culture, the cherry tree’s short-lived
bloom is often associated with the fragility of human life.

Ban

ks

A line of rose-covered
arches in a beautiful garden
in Baden-Baden, Germany.

Seeds inside
the rose hip are
eaten by birds
attracted by the
red fruit and
spread in their
droppings.

’ r ose

Flowering plants

A garden
of roses
This climbing
rose is native
to China.

The crimson
rose becomes
more fragrant
in the warmth
of the sun.
This full blooming
variety was bred
from five-petaled
wild roses.

Rose garden

Su

nb

lest

r ose

Munstead
wood
Dog rose hips

SPACE ROSE

e se

r os

e

In 1998, researchers sent
the miniature rose they called
“Overnight Scentsation” into
space, aboard NASA’s Space
Shuttle Discovery. The purpose
was to study the effect of low
gravity on the oils released
from the rose’s petals. After
10 days, they discovered
that the rose had produced
an entirely new scent,
unlike any rose scent
found on Earth.

Chin

Cupped golden
yellow petals
are mildly
scented.

Fruits called hips
develop once the flower
has been fertilized and
the petals fall off.

Long, straight stems hold these
medium- to large-sized roses upright.

74

Roses were the first plants to be grown
simply for their beauty and have graced
gardens for around 5,000 years. The rose
flower has been used as a symbol across
the world, representing ideas such as
love and purity, as well as adopted
as the emblem of kings and countries.

Almost all wild roses have five overlapping
petals and are known as “single” blooms.
Over the centuries, gardeners have taken
species of wild roses, particularly the
Chinese rose, and cultivated them to get
flowers with three or more layers of petals,
known as “double” blooms, such as the

This multilayered
rose variety cost
$4 million to develop.

Rose petals must be
steamed with water,
the same day they are
picked, to extract the
perfumed oil.

Musk r o

Juliet rose

This striped pink
flower was cultivated
more than 400 years ago.

s

e

Making rose oil, Bulgaria

This pale pink
rose is prized
for its smell.

sa

Mu

ndi

Pale pink flowers
bloom from dark
pink buds.

Ro

Some

rose
prickles
can be made into

fishing
hooks.

Leaflike sepals
protect the
growing bud.

D og r

Iceberg was
voted the “world’s
favorite rose”
in 1983.

os

e
This deep red rose may
have as many as 26–40
petals and is very fragrant.

Iceberg rose

Crimson glory

Banks’ rose and iceberg rose. Some modern
varieties, including the Juliet rose and crimson
glory, have more than 25 petals and are called
“full” blooms. Rose breeders have been able
to create white, yellow, orange, pink, and
red roses, but never a truly blue one.
Rose petals contain oils with a

wonderful fragrance used in perfumes and
many other beauty products, while rose water
is used to flavor sweets such as Turkish delight.
Some roses, such as the dog rose, bear glossy,
seed-bearing fruits called rose hips in fall. Rich
in vitamin C, these can be used in teas,
preserves, and medicines.

75

Con

ef

The striped ray
florets surround a
center of tiny disk florets.

l

ow

Flowering plants

Crazy for
daisies

With nearly 25,000 species, daisies make
up one of the largest plant families. But
their pretty flower heads are not quite what
they seem. What looks like one flower
is in fact a cluster of lots—sometimes
thousands—of tiny flowers in the center,
with a ring of what looks like petals but
is in fact more flowers around the edge.
Orange pom-poms
are made of individual
flowers and colorful hairs.

er

Stif

ftia

Treasure flower
Pink petals surround
a spiny conelike center
that is full of nectar.
Tubular flowers are
produced by this critically
endangered Hawaiian plant.

Yellow-tipped
red florets, which
look like flames,
give this plant the
name “firewheel.”

n ke t
Bla er
f l ow

Maui island-aster
The round flower
head is made up
of small flowers,
ranging from purple
to metallic-blue.

Three separate
florets look like
a single flower.

The spiky

76

Globe
thistle

globe
thistle is also
called the blue
hedgehog.

Whorl
flower

The largest sunflower head
ever grown was in 1983, at
321⁄4 in (82 cm) across.

Each floret produces one seed. The flower-packed
heads of daisies make them much more
attractive to insects and makes pollination a lot
easier. Most have bright colors to attract insect
pollinators, such as bees, but the tropical Mutisia
flower is pollinated by birds. The other tropical
daisies, stifftia and the Maui island-aster,
are unusual because they grow on trees.
M

ut

is

Crazy for daisies

Daisies such as the treasure flower, the common
daisy, and chicory have large outer petal-like
ray florets, surrounding the disk florets in the
center. Each disk floret is in fact five fused petals
that form a tubelike flower, which you can see
clearly in the whorl flower. The sunflower has
a large head so you can make out the individual
disk florets as they bloom, from the outside in.

ia

Each petal-like
ray floret is a
lopsided flower.

The orange ray
florets attract
bird pollinators.

Sunflower

Yellow disk florets
at the center produce
pollen and make seeds.

Edible blue
flowers, which are
bitter in taste, can
be eaten in salads.

Chic

or

y

The purple florets
fade to cream
toward the center of
the flower head.

Persian
cornflower

Common daisy

77

th

o

id
rc h

bo

lu

m

B ul

p

l
hy

The long petals of this
orchid often smell rotten
to attract pollinator flies.

These decorative
petals can be red,
white, yellow, or pink.

On

cid

iu

m

Mo

Flowering plants

Ingenious
orchids

These unusual speckled
flowers bloom for two to
three months in a year.

Zyg
o p e ta l u m

s

hid

d

os

c
or

Re

One colorful
petal is the
focus of these
unusual flowers.

cr

Large, long-lived
flowers make this
orchid a popular
houseplant.

Large petal acts as
a landing platform
for insects.

E
Re picattleya
ne
Marques

Cross-shaped lip
petals give this
orchid its name.

78

Orchids are beautiful flowers with clever
tactics for attracting pollinators. Some
mimic male insects, so rival males will
attack them and get covered in pollen.
Others attract male insects by looking
like females. Some flowers entice bees
and butterflies with a sweet smell, while
others stink of rotting meat to draw flies.

Orchids are found almost everywhere
in the world but are most common in
the tropics where, like the vanda orchid,
they live high in the rain forest trees. In
cooler climates orchids usually grow on
the ground. All orchids have three outer
sepals and three inner petals, including a
distinctive lip petal that acts as a landing

ip
Sl

pe

Va
n

rc
ro

These flowers
blossom for only
three days so have
a strong scent to
attract pollinator
bees quickly.

hid

da

S ta n h o p e a

n
Nu

orc hid

Tubular petals
lure insects inside.
Aerial roots
collect water from
moisture in the air.

These showy flowers
are pollinated only by
one species of butterfly.

White petals attract pollinators in
spite of this flower’s lack of nectar.

Insects enter
this pouchlike
petal and are
covered in pollen
as they struggle
to get out.

Red disa
There

are 28,000

known
species of

orchids in the
world.

Cattleya purpurata

platform for pollinators. Oncidium and zygopetalum flowers
have particularly large lip petals, and in the nun orchid and
cattleya flowers, these take the shape of colorful tubes. Orchids
bundle their pollen into sticky packages, which attach to pollinators
when they visit the flower. Some orchids can be pollinated only by
a single species of insect—for the red disa orchid, for example, it is
the mountain pride butterfly. This leaves the orchid very vulnerable.
If the insect went extinct, the orchid would follow.

79

Blossoms
and bulbs
Da f

fo d i l

Pink woo
so r r el

d

Tiny bulbs called bulbils,
which are 1 ⁄4 – 7 ⁄16 in
(7–11 mm ) in size, can
grow into new plants.

Large bulbs give rise
to yellow, trumpetshaped blooms.

Large flowers bloom
before leaves grow
from the bulb.

Amar yllis

This bulb starts
flowering about 6–8
weeks after planting.

Amaryllis
bulb

Each

Ne r i n e

wild leek

Delicate, lilylike
flowers are produced
on leafless stalks.

stalk can produce

more than
500 flowers.

UNDERGROUND STORE

This bulb grows only
in cool weather during
the fall.

A bulb is made up of a short stem that produces layers of
fleshy leaves known as scales, which store food and water.

Nerine bulb

Leaves use
sunlight to
make food.

An outer layer
protects the bulb.

Scales are
a type of leaf
that stores food.

New leaves grow
from the stem.

Short stem
connects the
roots and shoots.

Roots hold the
bulb in the ground.
Cross section of a bulb

Some of our favorite flowers grow
from underground food stores, called
bulbs. Packed with food and water, bulbs
lie dormant beneath the soil when the
weather is either too hot or too cold,
hidden from hungry animals. But as
soon as conditions are right, they
quickly sprout new shoots and leaves.

Hyacinth

Clusters of purple
flowers grow on stalks
up to 3 ft (1 m) tall.

Tu

lip

Blossoms and bulbs

Poisonous bulbs
can irritate skin
on contact.

Giant onion

Balls of flowers can grow
7 in (20 cm) across.

Waxy leaves are
arranged alternately
on the stem.

Dwarf iris

Leek

Roots continue to grow
and absorb nutrients and
moisture during the cool
fall season.

Leek bulbs form long,
straight white barrels.

Leek bulb

Many South African plants, such as
amaryllises and nerines, spend the
hot summer as bulbs under the ground,
flowering in the fall when it is cooler.
Others, such as daffodils, tulips, and
hyacinths, flower in the spring after
the cold winter in other countries has
ended. These are some of the most

Bulbs multiply
as they mature
and grow into
new plants.

Long roots can
pull the bulbs
deeper into the soil.

popular blooms, farmed for selling as
cut flowers for the home. Although
some bulb plants, such as leeks and
onions, are edible, others produce
toxic chemicals to discourage animals
from digging up the bulbs and eating
them. Daffodil, hyacinth, and tulip bulbs
are poisonous to many animals.

81

Flowering plants

What’s
that smell?
White blossoms
smell like rotting
fish to attract flies
as pollinators.

When we think of flowers, we usually
think of the colorful petals and sweet
scents that attract pollinators such as
bees or butterflies. But some plants
smell truly terrible. Their stinking
flowers, leaves, and roots attract a
different set of pollinators, including
flies and beetles.
The flowers,
which bloom in
spring and summer,
smell like rotting
meat to draw
in insects.

Carrion
flowers

Pi

n

pl
eap

can grow up
to 16 in
(41 cm) across.

Bradford
pear
gon
Dra m
ar u

The star-shaped,
hairy flower looks
like a dead animal.

Carrion
plant

No Durian

82

Smelly durian is
banned on public
transportation in
Singapore.

The flower
spike may
resemble
an attractive
pineapple but
can smell awful.

C
i m r ow
pe n
ria
l

This strange-looking
flower traps insects
until they are all
covered in pollen.

This plant's
brightly colored
blooms, leaves, and
stem smell like foxes.

Jackal food

e l i ly

deer, by stinking like a fox or a skunk. Not
only do plants such as the dead horse
arum and titan arum smell awful, but
they also heat up their flowers to help this
smell spread farther. The vomitlike smells
of the durian fruit and female ginkgo nut
are so strong that both are banned from
many public places in some countries.

nk

Gi

go
Val
eri
an

Fleshy, smelly nuts
of the female tree
contain edible seeds
that do not smell.

The roots of
valerian smell
like sweaty socks.

ar
D e a d h o r se

This giant flower
spike can heat up
to 90 °F (32 °C).

Ti

um

The petal-like
bract is flesh-colored,
hairy, and smells
like rotting meat.

r um

Also known as the corpse flower,
titan arum has a red flower sheath that
looks and smells like rotting meat.

FLOWER TOWER
The titan arum
makes the tallest
flower spike in the
world, but it flowers
only once every two
to seven years in the
Sumatran rain forest
in Indonesia.

10 ft (3 m) tall

The delicate
leaves of this
plant smell like roast
beef when bruised
or damaged.

Stinking
iris

t

a
an

Titan arum

What’s that smell?

Some flowers, such as those of the Bradford
pear and carrion plant, smell like rotting
meat to attract flies. Jackal food plants
spend most of their lives underground,
sending up a poo-scented flower to be
pollinated by dung beetles. The crown
imperial plant, however, uses smell to scare
off would-be attackers, such as squirrels and

Water hyac
in

F l o we r i n g
r ush

Flower spike
and leaves reach up
to 5 ft (1.5 m) tall.

th

Flowering plants

Living
in water

Ponds, rivers, and oceans are full of plants.
These often grow quickly because they
have access to a lot of water and sunlight.
Some aquatic plants float on the surface,
their flat leaves soaking up the sun’s rays,
while others are fully submerged. Many
send up leaves and flowers from an
anchored underwater root.

Waxy lily pads rest
on the water’s surface.

Water lily
Air-filled leaf stalks
help the plant float.

or
Fanw

t

Fan-shaped
leaves give this
plant its name.

H

LIVING UNDER WATER
All plants need oxygen to survive. Some aquatic plants take
in oxygen from the water, while others, such as the water lily,
have tiny tubes in their stalks to carry air from above the
water’s surface to their roots.

Air spaces allow
oxygen to pass from
the leaves down
to the roots.

Water lily

Cross section of leaf stalk

rt
nwo
r
o

Stems, not
roots, anchor this
plant under water.

W

at

er lettuce

Bright green feathery
leaves and stem can
stand up to 11 3 ⁄4 in
(30 cm) out of the water.

at

he

r

’s f
e

Tufts of leaves protect
the developing flowers.

Par rot

U m b r e l l a g ra s s

to let the water drift freely through without tearing
them. Water hyacinths and water lettuces trap
air in their leaves to help them float. While some
water plants provide a habitat and food for fish and
other aquatic animals, others such as waterweed
and parrot’s feather grow so quickly that they
often take over lakes and streams, harming other
plants and the animals that live there.

Pairs of flowers
form a V shape.

Wa
h aw t e r
tho
rn

Tall stems carry
leaves that resemble
umbrella spokes.

Tiny hairs
trap air to help
the plant float.

The

Am

eri

ca

ne

elg

ras
s

Brazilian
waterweed

Dense leaves
can be up to
1 in (3 cm) long.

on Earth evolved
in water.

C

Leaves grow up
to 61 ⁄2 ft (2 m) long.

Clumps of eelgrass
form meadows
under the ocean.

earliest
plants to grow

om

m

on

lg
ee

rass

Living in water

Just like plants on land, water-based plants
need sunlight to make food and have found their
own unique ways to survive. Plants such as the
flowering rush and water lily are rooted at
the bottom of ponds and rivers but push out long
leaves to capture sunlight and tall flower stalks
to be pollinated by insects. The feathery leaves
of the fanwort and hornwort spread out

am
Sw

p r ose mal
l ow

Each large flower
grows to about 6 in
(15 cm) across.

Brilliant yellow
flowers attract bees
in early spring.

Gian

t r huba

rb

Marsh marigold
Tiny, brown female
flowers grow in the
form of a dense spike.

Native to riverbanks in Brazil,
the giant rhubarb has massive
leaves—the largest undivided leaves
of any flowering plant. Its flowers,
however, are tiny and grow on spiky
heads near the ground.

ail

GIANT LEAVES

C at t

These huge leaves
have a spiny underside
that stops animals
from eating them.

11 ft (3.3 m)

Flowering plants

Along
the river

The soil along a riverbank is rich in
nutrients deposited by flooding, so
plants here can grow large and often
very fast. They can thrive all summer
long, as they never suffer drought.
However, when a river floods, the
fast-flowing water may carry away
anything not firmly rooted in the soil.

One of the biggest riverside plants, the giant
rhubarb, grows 8 ft (2.5 m) tall and 13 ft (4 m)
wide. Not much smaller, the white skunk
cabbage grows huge cabbagelike leaves. Both
plants die away in winter, shedding leaves
that might otherwise become caught up in
floodwater and uproot them. Plants such
as the marsh marigold, purple

In North America, these white
berries are food for bighorn
sheep and grizzly bears.

Stalks
of horsetail

The brown,
conelike structures
at the end of this
nonflowering plant’s
stems contain spores.

on y
m
m
Co ber r
s n ow

Soft r ush

were used by early
American pioneers to
scour pots and
pans.

loosestrife, water spearmint, and candelabra
primrose lie dormant in winter but grow fast in
spring or summer. Cattail, soft rush, and
snowberry have a different survival
strategy. They are present all year
long, and their tough leaves or stems
can withstand swift floodwaters, so
each year they grow even larger.

R o u g h h o r se ta i l

Clusters of up
to six flowers
are borne on tall,
sturdy stems.

Tall spikes of delicate
mauve flowers blossom
in late summer.

A cluster of bright
red flowers grows on
the side of the stem.

Candelabra primrose
These leaves have
a minty smell.

Large, white
leaflike bracts
attract flies to the
smelly flower heads.

W h i te s k u n k
ca b b

Water
spearmint

P u r p l e l o ose s t r i fe

age

FLOODED FOREST

A shoal of fish swirl past the tangled roots of a
mangrove tree that stands partially submerged in
the warm Caribbean Sea off the Central American country of Belize. Most mangroves grow
along tropical and subtropical coastlines, where their roots are flooded with seawater twice a day.
Such a wet, salty environment would be fatal to most plants, but mangrove forests thrive in it.

Mangroves include everything from small shrubs to huge trees,
all adapted for living in salt water. The plants use a range of
survival tactics, from filtering out salt in seawater as they drink
it in through their roots to releasing salt through leaf pores.
Many mangrove trees stop their roots from rotting by absorbing
oxygen through spongy standing roots at low tide. Then, at high

tide, the pores in their roots close, preventing the trees from
getting waterlogged. Mangroves are an important tropical
and subtropical habitat, acting as natural storm barriers and
preventing coastal erosion. The network of roots is also a
source of food for fish and other small ocean creatures, and
helps shelter them from larger predators.

Flowering plants

What is
a cactus?
Cacti come in all shapes and sizes, but nearly
all of them have large swollen stems that allow
them to store water. This is because many
cacti grow in areas with little or no rainfall
for long periods of time. Desert cacti have
clever adaptations to help them survive
extreme heat and drought, however a
few very different cacti live in rain forests.

Summer flower ❯ The monk’s
hood cactus produces pale yellow
flowers throughout the summer.
They are pollinated by insects
and produce spiky fruits.

Water is stored in the
barrel-shaped stem.
Some cacti, such as this
one, expand when filled with
water and contract when dry.

Mass of
thin roots.

Inside a monk’s hood cactus
90

Roots ❯ The roots of this cactus
spread across a large area and
grow close to the surface. They
quickly draw in as much water
as possible from rain or dew.

Spine ❯ These help shade
the stem and stop animals
from eating the cactus. A
spine is, in fact, a type of
modified leaf with a small
surface area to prevent
water from evaporating.

Cacti shapes
Columnar
Cacti, such as the
saguaro, can grow
40 ft (12 m) tall,
and have distinctive
armlike side branches.
Bats pollinate their
flowers, which grow
at the top of the plant.

Clustering
The prickly pear
cactus has flattened
stems that grow in
clusters. The red,
prickly fruit must
be peeled to remove
the small spines.

Globular
Many cacti, like the
barrel cactus, have
rounded stems. This
maximizes water
storage, while its
vertical ridges direct
every drop of water
to the roots.

Climbing
Some cacti live in
forests, where they
clamber up other
plants for sunlight.
The queen of the
night cactus has huge
flowers that bloom for
just one night.

The ribs channel
dew to the roots.

Monk’s hood
cactus

Flakes ❯ In a desert, the sun is very
bright. White flakes grow on the stem
of the cactus, helping to reflect light.

Where do they grow?
Deserts
Desert cacti have to survive
extreme heat and light. Often
large and spiny, they grow all
over North and South America.
Forests
Some cacti grow in shaded
forests. Their stems do not
need to store water, as the roots
draw moisture from the air.
Grasslands
Smaller cacti often grow in
grasslands, where the grasses
shade them in summer. Most
are found in South America.

Cool cacti
Long, yellow spines
erupt in starry clusters
from ridges on the body.

Vertical stems
can grow up to
26 ft (8 m) tall.

us
act
pe c
Organ pi

Barrel cactus

Overlapping
stems create
a fan shape.

Branches can take
up to 40 years to form,
growing at less than
1 in (2.5 cm) a year.

S ag u a

ro

Paddle-shaped
stems are flat,
unlike stems in
most cacti.

Bilberry cactus

kl

pe

y

92

Many cacti live in the desert, where their
water-filled stems help them survive long
periods of drought. Most plants use their
leaves to make food from sunlight, but
cacti do this using their green, fleshy
stems. To protect themselves from
hungry animals, cacti have specially
adapted leaves called spines.

ic

Birds such as this
owl use the saguaro
cactus for nesting.

Pr

With a recorded height of
63 ft (19.2 m) and a trunk
about 3 ft (1 m) thick, the
Mexican false saguaro is
the tallest-known living
cactus in the world.

63 ft (19.2 m)

TALLEST CACTUS

ar

Living in hot and dry environments means that
cacti have to make the most of the rare, but often
heavy, rainfall. Ribs on the barrel cactus allow
it to stretch its stem to quickly take in as much
water as possible. In harsh desert conditions,
plants grow very slowly and live a long time.
Some, such as the saguaro and false saguaro
cacti, can live for up to 300 years. These tall

s

ctu
ca

False saguaro

Fiercely
sharp, long
spines protect
this cactus.

a

s
Chr

m
ist

Flowers bloom around
Christmastime in the
Northern Hemisphere.

Fragrant flowers
grow on top of this
rounded cactus.

White, hairlike
spines reduce
evaporation.

Tephrocactus
Old man
cactus
Red spines give
this plant its name.

Bishop’s cap
cactus

Mexican fire barrel

room
Ne o n b s
ca c t u

Flowers open at
night for moth and
beetle pollinators.

Stout stems
can be up to
31 ⁄3 ft (1 m) thick.

cacti, along with the organ pipe cactus, are
pollinated by lesser long-nosed bats at night,
while most other species are visited by insects
or birds during the day. Prickly pear flowers curl
their anthers around visiting bees to coat them
in pollen. Not all cacti live in the desert—the
Christmas cactus, for example, grows on
trees in the tropical rain forests of Brazil.

93

E

Flowering plants

Desert survivors
c

v
he

eria

After rain, the leaves unfurl
in a matter of hours.

When dry, resurrection
plants close down and curl
up to preserve moisture.

Dried plant

Resurrection plant
Spiny leaves with
sharp tips can
grow up to 5 ft
(1.5 m) in length.

Shiny, triangular
leaves are arranged
in a rosette.

Century
plant

The high, thorny
branches can be eaten only
by giraffes, with their
muscular tongues.

Camel thorn

94

A desert is a very dry area, with less
than 10 in (25 cm) of rainfall a year. All
plants need water to survive, but desert
plants have adapted to their habitat by
using ingenious methods of storing water,
reducing the amount they lose, or just
by being able to survive drying out.

The dense cushions
of leaves of this
poisonous plant
trap water inside.

Llareta

The echeveria plant and the Queen Victoria
agave retain water by trapping it inside their
fleshy leaves. Their leaves also have a waxy
surface that reflects the sun’s rays and keeps the
plant cool. The resurrection plant can lose
more than 95 percent of its weight during dry
periods, shriveling into a dry ball. It can survive

Bitter fruits contain
fatty seeds used to
make oils and biofuels.

The fleshy stem
makes food for the
plant by photosynthesis.

W
ild

Now

de

tg
ou

protected
by law, baseball
plants nearly went
extinct due to
overcollecting.

rd

Baseball
plant

These white
patterns mark where
growing leaves pushed
against each other.

The young leaves
of this tree are eaten
and sometimes used as
medicine in Ethiopia.

Afr
i ca n

morin

Pebblelike leaves
camouflage this plant
in rocky deserts.

ga

Queen Victoria agave

Living stone

like this for several years but quickly comes back to life when
rain soaks its leaves. Like cacti, the baseball plant, living stone,
and African moringa store water in their stems. Plants are fairly
uncommon in deserts and semideserts, so many predators eye
them hungrily. The camel thorn and century plant defend
themselves using sharp thorns or spines, while others,
including the llareta, protect themselves with poison.

Desert survivors

s

er

DESERT BLOOM

The vast Atacama Desert in Chile is one of the driest places
in the world, with very little rainfall. The bare, baked ground
appears bleak and lifeless. When it rains, however, millions of flowering plants, such as these purple
pussy-paws, spring up and transform the land into a carpet of color. These short-lived plants, or
“ephemerals,” grow from seeds that have long lain dormant in the earth.

Desert ephemerals are plants that live fast and die young.
Once the right conditions have triggered their explosion
of growth, they have a few weeks, or often just days, to
complete their life cycle. Ephemerals are usually small and
short. Growing tall takes time and energy, and desert plants
have none to spare. They must make the most of their short

season by producing flowers and setting seed very
quickly. With the return of drought, the ephemerals
disappear as fast as they came. They leave behind their
scattered seeds, safely hidden in cracks in the parched
ground, where they sit out the tough times until the
next rain. It may be a very long wait.

Flowering plants

a
W

wh
te r

b
Co

eel plant

o

ca
pi

l p i tc h e r p l a

nt

Tr

Meat-eating
plants
ra plant

Underwater traps
snap shut in 1 ⁄50 of a
second when triggered
by prey.

See-through windows
on the hood confuse
trapped prey who
tire themselves out
trying to escape.

Long teeth keep
insects inside as
the trap closes.

The bright,
slippery lip
attracts insects.

f ly

t ra

p

The leaves have pools
of water between them
where drowned insects
are digested.

INSIDE A PITCHER PLANT

s

nu

Trap closes in
less than a second
when trigger hairs
are touched.

Pow
d

er y

s t ra

pa

ir p

lan

t

Ve

98

Many animals eat plants, but have you
ever heard of a plant eating an animal?
Meat-eating plants often grow in bogs,
trapping insects and other small animals
to get the nitrogen and minerals they
need that are missing from the wet soil.

1. Brightly
colored lip,
slippery with
sweet nectar,
attracts prey.

Some
tropical
species have
pitchers that
hang from
tendrils.

A lid prevents
rain from flooding
the pitcher.

2. Waxy insides
ensure the insect
cannot climb out.
3. Insect drowns
in a pool of
digestive juices.

There are different types of meat-eating, or
carnivorous, plants. Waterwheel plants and
Venus flytraps have snap traps, which quickly
close shut around their victims. Pitcher plants
have a lip of nectar to attract their prey. The
insects then fall into the pitcher (jug) of digestive

Tubelike traps contain
downward-pointing hairs to
prevent their victims’ escape.

Trumpet
pitcher plant

Sensitive hairs, when
touched by prey, open the
trapdoor, which then swells
up and sucks the victim
into a pouch.

Sensitive hairs
covered in sticky
juices wrap
around the prey.

Bladderwort
Tube-shaped leaves
produce nectar to attract
insects, which are digested
by bacteria in the trap.

nd

ew

Sticky hairs, present
on only the summer
leaves, trap insects.

Su

The undigested
parts of insects
sink to the bottom
of the colorful trap.

Sun pitcher
plant

Butterwort

juices, which break down their bodies.
The flypaper traps of the butterwort and
sundew have sticky hairs that make sweet
treats to attract insects, which they digest
slowly. The bladderwort is an amazing
plant with leaves that have evolved over

a long time to form pouchlike
traps to help them get the nutrients
they need to survive. Its underwater
traps are triggered by sensitive hairs and
act like vacuum cleaners to suck in small
prey as they swim by.

99

Poisonous plants
Belladonn

t

White snakeroot
le y

All parts of this plant
are toxic, though the seeds
contain the most poison.

Hemlock

ly

of

he

te

e

ry

These toxic
leaves poison
the milk of
cows that
feed on them.

Sweet but
poisonous, these
black berries can
be deadly.

l
va

W

a

hi

n
ba

r
be

Li

This pretty
plant is highly
poisonous.

A single seed
contains enough
poison to kill an
adult human.

Many plants produce poisons to
prevent them from being eaten. While
some will cause only a stomachache,
others can kill. You should never eat
any part of a plant, unless an expert
can confirm it is safe.

Rosary pea

Throughout history, humans have known about
the poisonous properties of certain plants and
used them for deadly ends. Belladonna was used
to make poison-tipped arrows, while hemlock is
said to have been used to kill the great philosopher
Socrates in ancient Greece. Wolfsbane was

Pong
pong

The fruit contains
a poisonous seed—
eating it can kill a
human in two days.

ander

Poisonous plants

Ole

These bitter, white
berries look like the
eyes of a doll.

The poisonous
leaves are very bitter.

oi

Ca
st
pl a or
nt

l

The purple, helmet-shaped
flowers of this plant give it
its other name, “Devil’s Helmet.”

These dangerous
leaves can cause
blisters if touched.

Poisonous

plants

Wolfsbane

contain some of
the most deadly

substances
in the world.

The deadly sap
of these leaves
may cause a
rash if touched.

Each spiny capsule
has three beans inside.

Manchineel

The toxic
leaves of this
plant can kill
within hours
if eaten.

Yew

rubbed on arrows for hunting wolves, and
during Roman times, it was commonly used
for murdering enemies. Ricin, extracted
from the castor oil plant, remains one
of the most deadly poisons known today.
Although all the plants shown here are toxic

Harmless red berries
hide poisonous seeds.

to humans, some are harmless to animals.
For example, birds can eat the berries of the
white baneberry plant and yew without any
ill effects. The birds then spread the seeds in
their poo. Iguanas are known to feast on the
fruit and leaves of the toxic manchineel.

101

Parasitic
plants
M i s t l e to e

The plants take root
on branches, from seeds
dropped by birds that
eat mistletoe berries.

d
Do

Thin stems wrap around
a host plant and weaken
its immune system.

der

Red flowers are the
only part of this leafless
parasite that is visible
outside the cactus.

Cactus mistletoe

The pale stems
of this plant are
parasites of
ivy plants.

Mushroom-shaped
flower stalks emerge
from underground
stems, which feed on
the roots of host plants.

Thurber’s
stemsucker

He

l

os

102

is

Most plants absorb water and nutrients
from the soil to make their own food
using energy from sunlight, but others
have developed sneakier ways to survive.
Parasitic plants pierce the stems or
roots of other plants to steal their
hard-earned supplies.

Ivy broomrape

Tiny flowers, 2 mm
across, bloom along
the host stem.

There are two main types of parasitic
plants. Hemiparasites (half parasites) can
use sunlight to make some of their own food
but absorb water, nutrients, and sometimes
sugar