Types of xerophytes
On the basis of their mbrphology, physiology and life cycle pattern, xerophytes are generally classified into the following three categories:
a) Ephemeral annuals also called drought evaders or drought escapers are common in arid zones. These annuals are able to complete their life cycle within a short period of 6-8 weeks during which moisture conditions are favourable. As the moisture gets depleted these annuals dry out leaving behind a crop of seeds to tide over the adverse dry period. They actually avoid the dry period and form seeds which are highly resistant to aridity. Argemone mexicana, Solanurn xanthouupum and Cassia tom are good examples of drought escapers.
b) Succulents: Plants adapted to hot and dry areas are called succulents. They have fleshy stem, leaves and roots which are swollen and serve as water storage organs. These plants are able to accumulate large amounts of water during the brief rainy season. To minimise water loss from the plants leaves either become very small or modify into thorns or are absent altogether to cut down water loss through transpiration. The root system is shallow, with wide horizontally spread stem and leaves are thick, swollen and leathery. Examples of succulents are Opuntia sp., Euphorbia splendens and various types of cacti, and Agave. In many cases stems become succulent as in Opuntia and Eupborbia splendens. They are also called fleshy xerophytes. In such xerophytes, cuticle is thick with a well developed two to three layered hypodermis.
c) Non-succulent perennials: These are actually the true xerophytes or drought resistants, because they possess a number of morphological, anatomical and physiological characteristics which enable them to withstand critical dry conditions. They exhibit rapid root growth and form an extensive root system to tap water from the soil in a most efficient manner. The leaf size is greatly reduced and in many xerophytic grasses, leaves roll on to reduce the leaf surface for restricting loss of water due to transpiration. Some of the examples are Calotropis procera, Acacia nelotica, Saccharurn munja In non-succulent xerophytes, root system is very extensive e.g. Calotropis.