Flowers of the Climate Change - Which Plants Would Survive?

Flower Guru
Flowers of the Climate Change - Which Plants Would Survive

In a post-apocalyptic world beaten down by climate change, not many living things would survive. As temperatures soar, droughts parch the land, and floods drowned low lying areas, most plants and flowers would tend to not survive in these conditions. Yet not all flora would disappear in this potentially futuristic world. A handful of resilient plants have adaptations that could allow them to withstand and even thrive. These survivors could sustain crucial ecological niches and provide vital resources for animal and human life in the aftermath. 

Drought-Tolerant Plants

Plants naturally adapted to arid environments stand the best chance of enduring relentless drought conditions in a post-apocalyptic world. Succulents and other desert dwellers have specially evolved water storage tissues and mechanisms to capture and retain even scarce moisture. Their fleshy leaves, stems, and roots can expand to hoard water when it becomes available, then slowly metabolise it during long dry periods.Cacti demonstrate some of the most extreme adaptations to drought and heat stress:

  • Spongy inner tissue stores water
  • Waxy skin prevents evaporation
  • Spines shade and protect the plant

Drought-Tolerant Plants

Other desert plants share similar morphological and physiological adaptations:

  • Yucca - Deep taproots access groundwater
  • Aloe - Thick, mucilaginous leaves
  • Stonecrop sedum - Water-retaining leaves

Flood-tolerant plants

While drought-adapted plants withstand lack of moisture, flood-tolerant species survive the opposite extreme: prolonged inundation from rising seas, swollen rivers, and increasingly extreme rain events. Fortunately, many trees and shrubs native to riparian areas have anatomical and metabolic adaptations to endure saturated soil and temporary submersion. Conifers like pine, spruce, cedar, and fir have strategies to survive flooding:

  • Shallow root structures avoid waterlogged deeper soil
  • Needle-like leaves shed excess moisture
  • Oxygen transported through stems/trunks

Flood-tolerant plants

Deciduous trees also display flood adaptations:

  • Willow - Adventitious roots access oxygen
  • Silver maple - Buttressing roots stabilise soil
  • Bald cypress - "Knees" elevate air intake

Even some ornamental shrubs tolerate oversaturated conditions, including:

  • Privet - Copious small roots
  • Forsythia - Extensive root system
  • Hydrangea - Spongy stems

Heat-Tolerant Plants

While many crops shrivel and die under extreme heat, some vegetable and fruit varieties exhibit impressive heat tolerance. These survivors can set fruit and produce harvests even during hotter summers and sustained high temperatures resulting from climate change.Several fruiting crops retain productivity under scorching conditions:

  • Peppers - Withstand temperatures over 37.78°C
  • Tomatoes - Use porous leaf structure to stay cool
  • Eggplants - Adaptive wilt-prevention root system

Likewise, many vegetables thrive despite heat stress:

  • Lettuce - Deep roots prevent moisture loss
  • Arugula - Distinctive wax-like leaf coating
  • Celery - Extensive root system draws ample water

Heat-Tolerant Plants

Perennial vegetables persist for years and also demonstrate resilience:

  • Asparagus - Deep crown and long roots retain moisture
  • Rhubarb - Large leaves shade roots
  • Globe artichokes - Thick waxy leaves conserve water

Even staple crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets achieve reasonable, if reduced, yields during hot spells. Their buried tubers and roots stay insulated from extreme air temperatures. While many temperate crops would fail outright, these heat-tolerant edibles could persist in warmer post-apocalyptic conditions. Their stress adaptations enable fruiting and nutritious harvests. This offers hope of sustenance from humanity's agricultural traditions, even in a drastically overheated world.

Generalist Survivor Plants

While specialised adaptations help plants endure specific stressors like drought or flood, a few botanical survivors carry broad genetic flexibility to handle multiple extremes. These tough "generalists" display wide tolerance across habitats and conditions.Some versatile plants with notable survival capacity include:

  • Dandelions - Prolific seed heads rapidly colonise disturbed areas thanks to taproots that capture scarce moisture and nutrients. Already enjoys global distribution.
  • Cockroaches of plant kingdom, with extraordinary capacity to adapt to varied habitats and rebound after devastation.
  • Orchids - Possess specialised organs like pseudobulbs to endure long dormant periods, allowing survival even if climate conditions shift dramatically between seasons. Some orchids survived after asteroid impact wiped out dinosaurs.
  • Magnolia - Ancient flowering tree family dates back 95 million years to when small mammals dominated with dinosaurs. Persisted through dramatic climate changes over eons.
  • Willows - Fast-growing pioneer trees quickly resprout from fragments and broken branches. Already range across northern hemisphere riparian areas and tundra.

Generalist Survivor Plants

Mints demonstrate similar tenacity - easily root and spread via rhizomes. Members of mint family like catnip, lemon balm, and peppermint grow on multiple continents.

  • Genetic diversity - Wide gene pool improves adaptability
  • Reproductive capacity - Abundant & rapid seed or vegetative spread
  • Established global ranges - Already proven widely adaptable

Having persisted through previous eras of climatic upheaval and even asteroid-level destruction, these scrappy plants have the best chance of clinging to existence no matter what environmental gauntlet a post-apocalyptic world presents. Their supreme resilience offers hope that life finds a way, despite shocks to global systems

Quick-Growing Plants

When the land lies bare and lifeless in a post-apocalyptic world, the first bursts of new plant growth could provide welcome splashes of living color while helping rebuild depleted soil. Fortunately, several fast-growing annual flowers and vegetables stand ready to rapidly colonise such a ravaged landscape. Poppies and sweet peas bloom vibrantly within weeks after sowing. As opportunistic colonisers, they readily spread across disturbed ground to quickly stabilise and enrich the soil:

  • California poppies - Hardy wildflowers thrive on poor, dry soils. Cheerful orange blooms.
  • Sweet peas - Fragrant annual vine fixes nitrogen while generating abundant biomass within one season.

Quick-Growing Plants

Other quick-growing flowering annuals that attract pollinators include:

  • Cosmos - Heat-loving, self-seeding flowers bloom all summer with little care.
  • Marigolds - Extremely rapid growing season, with some varieties producing edible flowers. Yellow and orange hues.

Several leafy greens and herbs also reach harvest stage rapidly:

  • Lettuce - Certain varieties bolt from seed to salad-ready leaves in just over 30 days. Rich in vitamins.
  • Arugula - Fast-growing cool weather green peaks with tangy, nutritious leaves in under a month.
  • Cilantro - Prolific herb goes to seed from planting in as little as 5-6 weeks.

These speedy pioneers deliver aesthetic beauty, ecological benefits like nitrogen fixation and soil stabilisation, as well as potential food sources, faster than most plants. Their explosive growth rates offer hope that even scorched post-apocalyptic wastelands could see hints of green within a month or two after devastation. The vibrant colors of their flowers can lift spirits, while the bounty of their leaves and seeds helps lay the foundation to feed survivors striving to endure.

Global Provenance of Hardy Resilient Plants

While predicting which species might endure post-apocalyptic conditions relies partly on an educated 'guess', we can look to real-world habitats with extreme climates to reveal the hardy plants already proven to thrive despite intense challenges. Understanding where remarkably resilient flora grow today reinforces their future survival potential.

For example, hearty desert plants like rugged cacti, aloe vera, agave, and yucca all evolved to handle the daily extremes of arid, scorched environments across the Southwestern United States, Northern Mexico, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and other global deserts. Their anatomical adaptations allow survival on just scarce rainfall for months or years at a time amid blistering heat and relentless sunlight.

Coastal species like mangroves and cypress along the Gulf of Mexico endure the dual stresses of salt and floods, giving them experience tolerating saline storm surges and inundation. High altitude alpine survivors must handle dramatic seasonal changes in climate plus exposure to solar radiation. Cold-hardy plants like saxifrage and dryas octopetala cling to rocky slopes in the Himalayas and Arctic tundra despite meagre soil, Frost and snow.

Globetrotting pioneers like dandelions, clovers, mints, and cattails expanded ranges across multiple continents over millennia, demonstrating adaptability to diverse conditions including human activities. Their genetic malleability bodes well for persisting through additional changes ahead.

Seed of Wisdom

Come flood, drought, heat waves, or even another extinction-level event, life finds a way. These resilient plants offer living testaments that Armageddon is not the end for Earth's greenery. As long as a handful of hardy botany persists, ecosystems can rebound. Such is the extraordinary tenacity of plants - they will root, adapt, and sprout anew no matter what calamities tomorrow brings.

First published on 13.12.23. Republished with updates on 13.5.24.


It's pretty cool that native plants are so important for keeping our ecosystems healthy and diverse, especially with all the crazy weather changes happening.
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