Perennial plants persist for many growing seasons. Generally the top portion of the plant dies back each winter and regrows the following spring. One reason why the perennial plant is sought after is because of its remarkable ability to survive year round through most weather conditions. Not unlike your local mail delivery person, perennials lives on through rain, sleet, or snow – perfect for the year round gardener. What is it about perennials that enables it’s winter survival abilities, whereas other plants will shrivel up and die as soon as the going get tough? Why can’t scientists engineer annuals or biennials to last as long the perennial plant?
As with most things in the natural world, not all plants are created equal, however some biologists have succeeded in re-engineering annual and biennial plants to last longer. To do so, they must examine the perennial plant and find out what allows it to survive in the same environment that causes other to perish. Although stretching the life of a non-perennial would certainly make the plant and floral businesses flourish, marketing isn’t the only reason scientists and many others have this question. If we had vast amounts of plants that have medicinal and life saving properties, we could study their curing capabilities at an exponential rate. The longevity of the perennial plant in garden is definitely an exciting curiosity for many people.
Interestingly enough, the perennial plant is able to thrive year after year due to a few survival tricks it has up it’s sleeve. Take trees and shrubs for example. These drop their leaves and protect their next year’s growth with waxy scales. Examine the bud of a perennial plant in your garden and you’ll see that it covered with a sticky looking waterproof wax.. When the bud begins to bloom, it scars as its scales fall off and the distance between its scars are an indicator of how many times a year that perennial plant grows.
The perennial plant gears up for the winter by draining its own food supply from its leaves down inside its trunk, branches, and twigs. As the weather gets colder, the tissues of the perennial plant will slowly change and become cold resistant in a process called “hardening.”
During these changes, the chlorophyll of a perennial plant will decompose and lose its propensity to project a green hue – leaving the tree with its trademark red, yellow, orange, and brown autumn leaves.