Plants for the End of the World: 15 Survivalist Species

Mount Everest Moss: Highest Altitude Plant


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What kind of plants grow on the world’s tallest mountain? Twin brothers Willie and Damian Benegas, scientists and explorers, trekked Mount Everest in search of plants – and found a species of moss that was thriving at 21,350 feet above sea level. This moss is exposed to extremely cold temperatures, high winds and ultraviolet radiation. It might just be one of the hardiest plants in the world. The samples provided by the Benegas brothers are currently being identified and studied.

Living Rocks and Other Drought-Proof Plants


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Succulents and cacti are able to last long periods in hot, dry deserts by storing their own water in their leaves, stems and roots. They have thick skins and often a waxy, hairy or spiny surface that reduces air movement around the plant to reduce water loss. Their roots are usually close to the surface of the soil, enabling them to grab moisture from the air or from dew. Succulents initially evolved in Africa, and it wasn’t until they made their way to America that some of them developed the large protective spines that we tend to associate with cacti. Succulents come in many dazzling varieties including lithops, known as ‘living rocks’. They protect themselves from hungry animals by blending in with surrounding stones.

Bamboo: Contain it, Or You’ll Be Sorry


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The fastest-growing plant in the world spreads through underground rhizomes, with some varieties growing out into dense thickets and others growing up. Bamboo can grow over three feet within a span of 24 hours, though a more typical growth rate is about 1-4 inches per day. The thick, woody ‘timber’ varieties can grow up to 98 feet in height and reach 8 inches in diameter. Because they’re so readily adaptable to so many different climates and conditions, bamboo can be extremely invasive – good thing it’s so useful. Many homeowners have found that if they don’t carefully contain stands of bamboo with barriers around the rhizomes in the soil, it will quickly get out of control.