Table 12. Examples for specialised life forms which are not classified on the basis of their perennating organs (adapted from Allaby 1998)

Life form



Plants in which the stem and/or the leaf is swollen for the internal storage of water. Stem-succulents (e.g. cacti) are characteristic of more arid conditions, compared to leaf-succulents (e.g. Crassula).


Plants which grow in soils with a very high concentration of salt, e.g. in saltmarshes. Many of these plants are found on coastal beaches, though salty soils also occur in many inland areas (e.g. Utah in the USA). Saltwort is a common British example


Plants that grow on another without absorbing food materials as a parasite would do. Mosses and lichens growing on the surface of trees are good British examples. The Epiphytic orchids of the tropical rain forest are another example. Many of these orchids have aerial or epiphytic roots.


Plants which grow from the ground level to a height which they can reach depending on other plants or inanimate objects such as walls. Ivy and honeysuckle are familiar examples of woody climbers, while Bindweed, Cleavers and sweet peas are familiar examples of herbaceous (soft-wooded) climbers


Special form of climber where the stem becomes perennial and woody, as in the common ivy or some of the tropical philodendrons. Some tropical lianas have long cord-like aerial roots.


Plants which are adapted to dry or arid conditions. These include cacti and succulents, as well as plants with reduced leaves which may be needle-like, such as gorse, heather and pine trees. Many pine trees live under cold, dry conditions where perma-frost may exist during the winter months.


Plants which are adapted to an environment that is neither extremely wet or extremely dry. Most of our common wild and garden plants fall into this category.


Plants that are adapted to grow in water or very wet environments. Examples include water buttercup, Canadian pondweed and arrowhead.