Dune Plan Adaptations is a lesson plan created by 2000 HOST Teacher Michael Collins.
OBJECTIVE: Students will touch Coal Oil Point Reserve locating the species of plants that are on the handouts and describe the different adaptations used by plants in their specific area of the dunes.
This lesson plan includes a diagram/worksheet for each plant. Click here to download. (Diagrams by Elaine Miller Bond, worksheet text by Colleen Millions).
Grade level: 7 to 10
A sand dune is like a little island of life. Plant adaptations help the plant survive in this harsh dune environment. Hot, dry conditions and the dune-forming winds of this area make it difficult for plants to survive, since they are being constantly sand blasted and buried. There are not many species of plants that can live here, and in this activity we will be working with ten of them from the three different dune areas. Coal Oil Point Reserve has over 40 acres of dunes.
As you head inland from the ocean the first dunes you encounter are the embryo dunes. These dunes are small and no more than one foot high. They form when wind carries sand to a kelp wrack, or a germinating seed grows into a plant and the sand piles up around it. Typical plants in the embryo dunes include:
The next set of dunes up the beach from the embryo dunes are the foredunes, which are unstable dunes. These dunes remain in the same place but change shape. They are slightly larger and have been around longer than the embryo dunes.
Plants in the foredune areas are prostrate to the ground due to higher wind speeds. Their seeds tend to float for dispersal reasons and more of them are succulents. Long tap roots and leaf glue are adaptations to a harsh environment. Sticky leaves trap sand, which stimulates hair therefore increasing the surface area, which helps retain moisture. Beachbur is the most common plant in the unstable foredunes. Other foredune plants include:
The diversity of plants generally increases as you go from the foredunes to the backdunes, which are stable dunes. Backdune plants are usually more erect. They have adapted the ability to conquer new habitats quickly following a disturbance by producing lots of small seeds. Backdune plants include:
LOCATION: Coal Oil Point Reserve
TIME REQUIRED: The Dune Plant Identification could be completed successfully in as little as 25-30 minutes. It could also be extended to allow time to identify other species in the area. Allow another class period for discussing results and possible adaptations.
Before the trip, spend some class time on classification of plants and include the information that is on the instruction sheets. It is important that students can distinguish the different characteristics of the plants, but they don't need to know the reason for the adaptations until after the activity, possibly during a class discussion.
Possible Extensions: Find a dune plant that is not one of the ten mentioned here and determine where it lives by its physical characteristics.
Download Instruction Sheets