Plants that make the most of water when they can get it makes sense to homeowners that live in drought-prone regions. Not only do plants that can handle periods during the year wherein a lack of water sometimes goes on for weeks or months save money on watering bills, they also help the environment. By not draining precious resources like underground reservoirs that take decades to replenish, people that utilize water-stingy plants ensure water for future generations.
One way plants conserve water involves their ability to close the pores in their leaves. These pores, called stomata, react to chemical changes the plant senses, namely to the amount of calcium.
Guard cells surrounding the pores apparently respond to oscillations from calcium, and when these oscillations (or vibrations) do not occur at the correct frequency for the plants to keep their pores open, the guard cells instruct the cells to close, thereby keeping in water.
What scientists in the field are now attempting is to engineer plants to be able to close their pores sooner so that precious water is not lost due to drought conditions, which can cause plants to suffer or to often die completely.
Natural Ways Plants Hold Water
There are other methods to how plants conserve water. Some plants hold water in by the way their leaves are shaped with cupped or funnel-shaped foliage designed to hold the water with their leaves. Some of these plants include certain African aloes (Aloe vanbalenii), the perennial green pitcher herb (Sarracennia oreophila), and the nasturtium, for example. Hostas, some types of magnolias, and certain holly varieties also feature cupped foliage used to hold water.
The cacti familys ability to use water parsimoniously makes an excellent example of how plants conserve water. Known as stem succulents, all members of the cactus family store water in either their roots, their leaves, or their stems.
The spines inherent on all true cactus plants also perform an important water conservation duty by slowing down harsh, drying winds, which further reduces loss of water. When nighttime temperatures drop and humidity levels rise, the spines on cactus also serve as accumulation points for moisture, another way this plant has developed methods to fend off the effects of an arid climate.
Think Before You Plant
Knowing how plants conserve water and which plants do so can make a big difference when homeowners plan a landscape. Of course, in the future, when botanists have gotten down pat the knowledge and methods to produce plants that thrive with virtually no water for extended periods of time, the number and variety of plants we can utilize will expand greatly. But for now, our best bet is to work with what we have got. So do your homework and plant trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and blooming things that conserve water. Generations to come will thank you in the future and your wallet will thank you now.