Leaves of the Kukumakranka plant (Gethyllis villosa) adapt to dry, hot conditions and continue photosynthesis by keeping their stomata open.
A plant in South Africa called Kukumakranka has adaptations within its leaves to help it survive the hot and semi-arid climate. Kukumakranka keeps many of its stomata open even in dry conditions, which helps the plant to continue to photosynthesise throughout the day. Exactly why Kukumakranka can maintain open stomata and not suffer from excessive water loss is currently unknown; however, researchers hypothesise that leaf chemistry and adaptations in the stomata help in the plant’s ability to adjust its response to dry conditions. An ability to continue to photosynthesize in warmer conditions could be beneficial as climate change influences the region.
Plants breathe, or simply exchange air, by tiny adjustable pores in the leaves called stomata. The stomata enable carbon dioxide to enter and oxygen and water vapour to exit the plant in the process of photosynthesis. Water vapour is an outcome of evaporation that is again occurring through stomatal openings. The evaporation of water causes water loss, but also thermal regulation through heat loss.
In many plants, when the outside temperature is warm and water evaporates more readily, plants close their stomata to prevent excessive water loss. Closing the stomata, however, can disrupt plant growth by preventing carbon dioxide from entering the leaves and thereby reducing photosynthesis.
Daniels, C. W., Mabusela, W. T., Marnewick, J. L. and Valentine, A. J. (2013). Photosynthetic Adaptation of two semi-arid species of Gethyllis (Kukumakranka) to drought-and-shade stress. South African Journal of Botany, 96: 29-36.