Plant Adaptations: Hydrophytes, Mesophytes & Xerophytes

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  • 0:05 What Is an Adaptation?
  • 1:08 Hydrophytes
  • 1:53 Mesophytes
  • 2:34 Xerophytes
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Pier

Heather has taught high school and college science courses, and has a master's degree in geography-climatology.

In this lesson, you'll learn about plant adaptations. You'll also learn about three of the most common types of plant adaptations: hydrophytes, mesophytes, and xerophytes.

What Is an Adaptation?

Sometimes in life, things change. Some areas become dryer, wetter, or maybe taken over by a certain type of organism. Animals and plants all come with mutations in their genetic code. Sometimes they're harmful, sometimes they're neutral, and sometimes, just sometimes, they happen to help out.

In biology, an adaptation is a form of change that is maintained by the natural selection process. Adaptations allow an organism to be better suited to its present conditions and more likely to reproduce or reproduce more successfully.

For plants, changes in environmental conditions could be caused by, for example, a decreased availability of water, or even an excess of water within its habitat. Plants with adaptations that are better suited to these new environments may do better than those without, and eventually the whole population will inherit this change.

There are several different ways of classifying adaptations, based on the conditions they respond to. Let's look into some major ones that categorize a lot of plants: hydrophytes, mesophytes, and xerophytes.


Hydrophytes are plants that have adapted to life in very wet places. So much so that they only live on or in water itself. You can remember hydrophytes for the 'hydro-' part of their name, meaning 'water.' Hydrophytes like the water lily have little to no root system, unlike land plants, because roots simply aren't as necessary since water is so readily available.

Most leaves in hydrophytes are thin, and many can float freely. The part of plants that allow for gas exchange, called the stomata, are located only on the part of the plant surface that's exposed to air. Finally, underwater plants will often lack stomata since they no longer need to exchange gases with the atmosphere anymore. They instead exchange gases with the water they live in.


Mesophytes are a group of plants that we encounter on a daily basis, unless you live in the desert, and include plants like maple trees, tulips, and grasses. Mesophytes are plants that are able to grow and thrive under typically average conditions. They require an average amount of water, and a consistent average temperature in order to survive. 'Meso-' means 'in the middle,' which might help you remember their middle or average requirements.

These plants have developed root systems, large leaves, and their stomatas are located on their lower surfaces for gas exchange. Most plants fit into the mesophyte category, so no matter how beautiful or fascinating a plant might be, most are decidedly average in terms of their adaptations.

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