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The difference between desert plants & rainforest plants

Updated February 21, 2019

Because desert plants and rainforest plants evolved in vastly different habitats, they have developed different styles of coping with their environments. These adaptations make them look different as well as giving them unique traits.

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Desert Habitat

In a desert, there is little rain, so plants that have evolved there have ways to cope with the dry climate.

Rainforest Habitat

In a rainforest habitat, plants encounter nearly constant rain, up to 180 inches a year.

Adaptations of Desert Plants

Some desert plants, such as cacti, have developed the ability to store water. Others grow long roots to help them find water buried deep below the surface.

Adaptations of Rainforest Plants

Rainforest plants have evolved waxy coatings on their leaves that allow moisture to drip off of them. Their roots are shallow to help them gather nutrients from the surface of the ground or directly from other plants.

Differences in Appearance

Desert plants often do not have leaves. Instead, they have thorns or smooth green surfaces that produce energy. Rainforest plants are often showy, with large leaves and flowers that help encourage pollinators.


Desert plants will often bloom only once or twice a year for a short time. Their seeds remain dormant until it rains. Rainforest plants often bloom continuously and produce seeds that start growing immediately.

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About the Author

Bridget Coila

Bridget Coila specializes in health, nutrition, pregnancy, pet and parenting topics. Her articles have appeared in Oxygen, American Fitness and on various websites. Coila has a Bachelor of Science in cell and molecular biology from the University of Cincinnati and more than 10 years of medical research experience.

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