Plants for the End of the World: 15 Survivalist Species

Purple Saxifrage: Blooms at Below Zero


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This record-breaking plant was found close to the summit of Dom, the third highest peak of the Swiss Alps. At 14,780 feet, this doesn’t quite reach the altitude of India’s Mount Kamet in the Western Himalayas, at which another flowering plant was found – but conditions for purple saxifrage in the Alps are much more grueling. Temperatures drop below zero every night, and the ground is free of snow for only two months out of ever year. That means purple saxifrage needs only 600 hours of temperatures above 3 degrees every year in order to survive.

Rice Plant Survives Both Floods and Drought


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Could rice be the food crop that could save us in the event of catastrophic climate change? Researchers at the University of California at Riverside demonstrated that varieties of rice plants that are flood tolerant are also better able to recover from drought, meaning they might be able to survive and adapt to extreme weather events. The flood-tolerant gene found in some low-yielding rice varieties from India is being cross-bred into high-yielding varieties in the hopes of increasing both flood and drought tolerance as well as maintaining high levels of food production.

Arabidopsis thaliana: Plant Sent to Outer Space


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What makes this little plant so special? Its genome was the first of the plant world to be sequenced – and its seeds rose on Apollo 16 and Apollo 17, later germinating on earth. Then, in 2009, it was taken on another little trip into outer space on Russian spacecraft Phobos along with other notable species known for their hardiness including the bizarre ‘water bear’ and the world’s toughest bacterium.