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How Plants Survive Winter : Extra Information

Derbyshire moors © Shirley Burchill

Winter is a difficult season for plants as well as animals. The number of hours of daylight is shorter so there is less sunlight. Without sunlight green plants cannot photosynthesize and make their food. The cold temperatures of winter slow them down and stops their growth. Freezing temperatures stop water from circulating in the plants' sap.

Like animals, some plants survive through the winter in resting stages. Plants that we call annuals only live for one year. They grow, reproduce and die at the end of summer. It is the seeds of annual plants that survive through winter. These seeds will germinate and grow the following spring.

Some plants survive as underground storage organs: tubers, such as potatoes, tap roots, such as carrots, and bulbs, such as onions. These plants store food reserves in their underground storage organs during the summer and autumn. In the following spring these food reserves are used to grow new leaves and shoots above ground. Many of these plants are called perennials because they do this year after year. In addition these plants will also produce large numbers of seeds each year.

Deciduous tree in winter, Hyde Park, London © Shirley Burchill

There are also those plants, the trees, which add new branches and roots to their bodies each year. Trees have to survive all winter with their trunks and branches above ground all winter, exposed to the cold, freezing winds and snow.

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