The following focuses on plant habitats, and in particular how they affect orchid culture in this country. One facet of natural habitats for most of the orchids grown in this country is significantly different from the conditions naturally experienced here, and this will be highlighted, together with other significant aspects.

HABITAT 3. ARID ‘RAIN SHADOW’ 
INLAND PRAIRIE HABITAT

Plant metabolism

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Many of the epiphytes found in this zone have developed sophisticated physiological adaptations to survive long periods of aridity. These include the following:-

  • Leaves have become very thick and fleshy
  • Leaf surfaces may be protected by a heavy wax coating. Under bright conditions, leaves may develop a deep red colouration to protect sensitive photosynthetic tissues.
  • Some leaves have become folded into a ‘V’ shape, decreasing the leaf surface exposed to the dry atmosphere, in extreme cases the leaves becoming rolled into a round profile, only the lower surface of the leaf exposed to the exterior.
  • Stomata, through which the plant breathes, may be confined to the lower leaf surface, or in pits or depressions, with large guard cells limiting water loss.

Some plants have developed a metabolic adaptation to limit water loss, as portrayed in the chart which follows

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