Savanna Plant Adaptation


Although definitions vary somewhat, savannas typically refer to landscapes dominated by grasses and widely spaced trees. This can mean the iconic tropical savannas of eastern and southern Africa, or temperate-zone open woodlands of pine or oak. Wherever their location, savanna plants exhibit unique adaptations.


  • Many of the world's savannas exist partly or wholly because of fire, whether sparked by lightning or intentionally set by human beings. In the Intermountain West of North America, ponderosa pine forms savannas and open woodlands between steppe and higher conifer forests, partially maintained by wildfire. The old, thick-barked pines withstands many blazes, while seedlings readily colonize fresh-burnt territory.

Grazing Pressure

Moisture Stress

  • Plants in both tropical and temperate savannas often contend with moisture limitations. Many tropical savannas experience annual dry seasons where rainfall is scant or nonexistent. In Africa, the baobab, a common tree of savannas and open woodlands, only leafs out during the rainy season. Many grasses reserve energy underground during the dry season, only greening when the rains come.


  • Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images Fire 11 image by Valeriy Kirsanov from kenya image by TEMISTOCLE LUCARELLI from Baobab before the sunset image by Elzbieta Sekowska from
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