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Plants protect themselves from the winter cold

Each autumn, the world outside is getting ready for a change.

Birds are migrating to find warmer wintering grounds. Mammals are eating a lot to increase their fatty insulation and are putting food away for the winter. Trees are dropping their leaves and going dormant. (Read about that here)

What about other plants though? How do other plants, like prairie plants or lawn grasses, survive the winter?

Perennial plants — those that come back year after year — rely on their root systems to stay alive and get ready to push up new shoots next spring. In the fall, you might see the tops of plants turning brown, drying out and dying off. The plants won’t need the leaves and stems to photosynthesize through the winter, so the top of the plant dies while the roots live beneath the ground.

Photo of flower seed heads in the snow

The roots will also get rid of as much water as they can, because too much water makes it easy to freeze. When a plant freezes, its cells burst and die.

The roots also gather in sugar, salt, antifreezing proteins and change their fat composition to keep from freezing in frigid temperatures and to be able to adjust to the ups and downs of winter temperatures.

Basically, plants work hard in the autumn to protect themselves from the cold and to avoid ice building up inside.

Then, when the spring thaw comes, they’re ready to start growing and photosynthesizing to make food once again.Photo of snowy plain

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