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Adaptations are like Superpowers

What challenges do plants face and what adaptations do they have to help them survive?

You probably know what the necessities of life are. But has an adult ever told you “You must eat chocolate, or use your device, or play with that toy – or you won't survive?” As much as you think you need these things every day, you would keep on living if you didn’t have them. That’s the difference between “needing” something and “wanting” something. 

All living things have basic needs for their survival. Animals and plants need water, oxygen, food and shelter to live their different lives on Planet Earth. If the basic needs balance and conditions are right, then living things can thrive. 

How do you ’survive’? Think of what you really ‘need’ in order to live. 

How do you 'thrive’? Think of what you 'want’ that makes your life better.  

A plant has needs just as you do: some are the same, others are different. The availability or lack of some things will influence the plant and its surrounding environment. Generally, these fall into two categories: 

1) Abiotic (non-living) factors 
2) Biotic (living and once-living) factors 

Watch this video to discover more about these environmental factors.


Unlike you, a plant is immobile. If it gets too cold, for example, it cannot shiver, walk away, light a fire or wear a coat to keep warm. To still meet their needs, plants develop various adaptations (think of them like “superpowers”) which can be grouped into two types:

1) Structural Adaptations - this is something that a plant HAS!

2) Behavioural Adaptations - this is something a plant DOES!

Watch this video to learn more about plant adaptations.


Plants have different adaptations to match the environment they live in. If plants need to survive in harsh environments, like a hot, dry desert or a wet, dark rainforest, their adaptations are like ‘superpowers’ that help them survive in that difficult environment.

There are thousands of different plant ‘superpower’ adaptations out there! Over millions of years, these adaptations have slowly evolved to live in the unique climatic conditions (abiotic factors), and within their unique community of living organisms (biotic factors) to both survive and thrive.

Activities - Adaptations are like Superpowers

1. Environmental factors crossword 

After watching the Environmental Factors video, test your knowledge by completing this crossword. You will find out which ones are right and wrong when you complete all the answers.

2. Letter writing

Imagine you are Sally and are facing the challenge of not getting enough sunlight. Write a letter to a friend describing how you used your 'superpowers' to survive. Don't forget to use the terms 'structural adaptation' and 'behavioural adaptation'. You could make your letter more interesting by including some drawings to help your description.

3. Explore a behavioural adaptation

Fill ¾ of a used paper cup with soil. Plant some seeds just under the surface, and sprinkle daily with enough water to keep the seeds hydrated. Put the cup by a windowsill or other area where it receives sunlight from only one direction. Give some time for the shoots to grow. After a while, rotate the pot around to see how the plant responds. Try placing the cup sideways (on a saucer to catch any soil that falls out) and see what happens! What was the outcome?

4. Photo hunt

Look for plants in the area where you live. Take pictures of several different plants, and close-ups of any special features. Note any relevant abiotic and biotic factors (for example, if the plant grows in water, or if flowers are visited by lorikeets). Make a poster presentation on the Superpowers in Your Backyard! 

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