Biotype and plant adaptability // Fundamental morphology of GEOPHYTES species

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In this new installment, I will share with you what is related to the morphological study of GEOPHYTES, content framed in the theme of publication called: Biotype and plant adaptability, which I hope is to the liking and scientific utility.


The geophytes species, are specialized plants in the storage of carbohydrates within their organizational structures, mainly in root and stem, according to the approach of [5], the geophytes plants are constituted by perennial underground organs type; Rhizome, corm, tuber or bulb and foliar tissue with annual phenology.

The underground storage organs, which have the geophytes plants, are the result of an evolutionary process, which these plant species have established, in order to guarantee availability of sugars and / or water at times not suitable for development [2].

In this post, I will be describing what is related to the main botanical biotypes, emphasizing the mechanism of plant adaptability that geophite plants present, in addition to categorizing the fundamental morphology of these plants of nutritional and medicinal interest.

Biotype and plant adaptability

Etymologically the word biotype, comes from the combination of the Greek terms βίος (life) and τύπος (type), whose biological theoretical construct means, typical biological form, aspect linked to the traits or characteristics that the species possess.

In botany, the term biotype is used to refer to the external morphological characteristics of plants, whose structure follows a specific pattern within the taxonomic group [3].

The biotype meaning is also often referred to as FORM OF LIFE, a botany field that is responsible for grouping plant species, according to their exomorphological aspects and ecophysiological adaptations.

There are different biological approaches, where the plant biotypes are schematized, in this post, a classification system is presented, based on the main characteristics of the upper plants or Magnoliophytas, according to their duration, consistency and adaptability;


As a result of the evolutionary pressures, the Magnoliophytas plants have developed adaptive mechanisms, which allows them to remain phenologically in specific periods of time, being able to find the following categories; 1. Annual, 2. Biannual and 3. Perennial.

A.1 Annual

Plant species whose phenological phases are executed in an annual biological period. Example: Cynodon plectostachyus (Star grass).

Fig. 2 Species of the Poaceae family, Annual biotype. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

A.2 Biannual

Plant species whose biological and phenological period, runs in two years. Example: Carica papaya (Papaya).

A.3 Perennial

Plant species whose flowering phase can be executed more than twice throughout their biological period. Example: Samanea saman (Samán).

Fig. 3 Samanea saman (Samán), Perennial biotype. Author: @lupafilotaxia.


Stem development is a biological aspect used to identify plant biotypes, according to their hardness, identifying plants; 1. Woody, 2. Semi-woody and 3. Herbaceous.

B.1 Woody

Plant species whose consistency is lignified (hardened) morphology. Example: Tectona grandis (Teca).

Fig. 4 Stems of Tectona grandis (Teca), woody biotype. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

B.2 Semi-woody

Plant species whose consistency is intermediate, in contrast to woody and herbaceous plants. Examples: Carica papaya (Papaya) and Manihot esculenta (Yuca).

Fig. 5 Stem of Carica papaya (Papaya), semi-woody biotype. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

B.3 Herbaceous

Plant species whose consistency is soft morphology. Example: Xanthosoma sagittifolium (Ocumo).

Fig. 6 Xanthosoma sagittifolium (Ocumo), Herbaceous biotype. Author: @lupafilotaxia.


The adaptations of the upper plants or Magnoliophytas, to multiple ecosystems, have represented formidable external adaptations, of their aerial and underground organizational structures, in the search to regulate their physiological mechanisms, which guarantee them to perpetuate themselves, among the main plant adaptations of the system [5 ], can be mentioned; 1. Phanerophyte, 2. Camephyte, 3. Terophyte, 4. Xerophyte, 5. Hydrophyte, 6. Halophyte y 7. Geophyte.

C.1 Phanerophyte

Vegetable species of woody consistency, whose vegetative and reproductive buds, are located in the intermediate and apical caulinar nodes, about 50 cm of the soil / plants type trees or shrubs with perennial growth. Example: Bougainvillea spectabilis (Trinitaria).

Fig. 7 Bougainvillea spectabilis (Trinitaria), Fanerophyte biotype. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

C.2 Camephyte

Vegetable species of woody, semi-milky or herbaceous consistency, whose vegetative and reproductive buds are located throughout the first 50 cm of the soil / vascular plants type shrubs or herbs: Example: Stevia rebaudiana (Stevia).

C.3 Terophyte

Plant species whose life cycle develops in the same favorable seasonal period / plants with phenological phases without interruptions. Example: Phaseolus vulgaris (Bean).

C.4 Xerophyte

Plant species that have adapted their internal and external morphological structures, to subsist in ecosystems that have periods of extreme drought / plants typical of desert environments. Example: Aloe Vera (Aloe).

Fig. 8 Aloe vera (Aloe), Xerophyte biotype. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

C.5 Hydrophyte

Plant species that have adapted their internal and external morphological structures, to subsist in aquatic ecosystems / macrophyte and microphyte plants. Example: Eichhornia crassipes (Bora).

C.6 Halophyte

Plant species that have adapted their internal and external morphological structures, to survive in saline conditions / plants of saline environments. Example: Sesuvium portulacastrum (Beach purslane).

C.7 Geophyte

Vegetable species that have adapted their internal and external underground morphological structures, to subsist in conditions of low availability of nutrients and water / plants that store carbohydrates in root and stem. Example: Solanum tuberosum (Potato) and Allium Sativum (Onion).

Morphological adaptations

The morphological changes adopted by the geophyte plants, are a behavioral biological response [2], which this group of plant species has conditioned to develop and perpetuate over time, within the evolutionary strategies designed to meet such adaptive rush, are found;

a. Nutrient Storage

Geophyte plants have morpho-physiological mechanisms that allow them to store carbohydrates, thereby eliminating competition for nutrients with other neighboring species [4], on the other hand, this evolutionary aspect gives them optimal conditions for growth, development, flowering and fruiting in times of extreme drought, where the photosynthetic process is widely compromised by interrupting water availability.

b. Vegetative amplitude

In response to the eco-physiological limitations, the geophite species as a mechanism of action, faced with environmental pressure factors, have successfully established meristematic units of cell multiplication, which generate new vegetative individuals, a biological aspect that allows them to reproduce without resorting to the energy expenditure of produce seeds.

c. Reproductive latency

One of the adaptive advantages of geophyte plants is their ability to enter periods of reproductive latency, through the constant emission of photosynthetic foliar tissue, as a carbohydrate production and reserve strategy, an evolutionary condition that guarantees effective flowering and fruiting.

Morphological categorization

Geophyte species are usually categorized in the following biological forms;


It is designated by rhizome, basically to the stems of geophilic species, with underground growth in the horizontal direction, in whose knots adventitious roots and leaf tissue are emitted.

Fig. 9 Geophytes biotype, Rhizome category, on the right is indicated; Adventitious roots, knots and vegetative shoots. Author: @lupafilotaxia.


The corms, are geophyte stems with underground growth and thickened base, which unlike rhizomes, these organizational structures have vertical development, however, they also have knots that emit vegetative buds.

Fig. 10 Geophytes biotype, Cormo category, A. Cormo of FHIA 21 (Banana Clone), B. Longitudinal section, vertical section indicated. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Hypogeal tubercle

This type of geophytes structures, are portions of stems thickened by the accumulation of carbohydrates, their growth is generally underground, they have uniform bulge.

Fig. 11 Geophyte biotype, category Hypogeal tubercle, A. Solanum tuberosum tuber (Potato), B. Longitudinal section, carbohydrate reserve indicated, C. Vegetative sprout. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Fig. 12 Geophyte biotype, category Hypogeal tubercle, A. Daucus carota (Carrot), B. Longitudinal section, upper apical vegetative bud indicated. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Epigeal tubercle

By epigeal tubercles, the roots of geophytes plants are known, that manifest growth and bulge in the primary root, specifically on the superior apical region.

Fig. 13 Geophyte biotype, category Epigeal tubercle, A. Beta vulgaris (Beet), tubercle, B. Longitudinal section, upper apical vegetative bud, C. Longitudinal section, reserve substance indicated. Author: @lupafilotaxia.


The bulb is a very short and spherical geophyte stem, adapted to underground growth, with fibrous roots in the lower area and vegetative buds in the upper region, these structures have protective and storage leaves called cataphyls, in addition to the true or nomophyles.

Fig. 14 Geophytes biotype, Bulb category, A. Bulb of Allium cepa (Onion), B. Longitudinal section, real leaves are indicated Nomophyls, C. Longitudinal section, protective and storage leaves are indicated Cataphyls. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Fig. 15 Geophyte biotype, Bulb category, A. Allium Sativum (Garlic) bulb, B. Longitudinal section, spherical base of the bulb is indicated. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Fig. 16 Geophyte biotype, Bulb category, A. Allium schoenoprasum (Cebollin) bulb, B. Longitudinal section, spherical base of the bulb is indicated. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Properties and economic utility

In addition to storing sugars in their underground structures, geophyte plants also have the ability to metabolize phytochemical substances with pharmacological properties, these organic compounds are widely used by the pharmaceutical industry, to synthesize and produce medicines.

One of the examples, which we can cite in this post, is the one referring to the medicinal properties possessed by the RIZOMATOUS structures of the geophite species Curcuma longa (Curcuma), which contains photochemical elements such as; phenols, bormenol and caffeic acid, marketed for their antioxidant effects, liver protection and anti-inflammatory action.

Another beneficial aspect of the geophilic species is the source of vitamins, minerals and fibers that have the hypogeal and epigeal TUBERCULES, such is the case of the potato (Solanum tuberosum), which has energetic phytochemicals and nutritional value such as thiamine and Niacinamide (vitamins of group B), this geophytes, is used as a crop and consumed on a regular basis.

Like rhizomes and tubers, BULBS are also geophyte species, which metabolize phytochemical substances, within these, we can mention the antitoxically, anti-inflammatory activity and the antibiotic effect of Garlic (Allium Sativum) and Onion (Allium cepa).


  • The theme of this post, describes the main biotypes as a result of the adaptive strategies adopted by plant species, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, in addition to their morphological differences, both elements of importance for the botanical recognition of taxonomic groups. On the other hand, the morphological categorization of Geophyte species, where the exomorphological characteristics and medicinal properties of representative species of this plant biotype are considered, offers a systematic and utilitarian contribution to establish the main differences between the types of geophyte plants, in agreement, to the substances they store and their phytochemical components.


[1] Braun B. Fitosociología, bases para el estudio de las comunidades vegetales. Madrid, H. Blume. 1979.

[2] Dafni A., Cohen D., and Noy I. Life-cycle variation in geophytes. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. 1981; 68: 652–660.

[3] Harper J. Population biology of plants. London Academic Press, London. 1977; 892.

[4] Parsons R. Monocotyledonous geophytes: comparison of California with Victoria, Australia. Australian Journal of Botany. 2000; 48: 39–43.

[5] Raunkiaer C. The life forms of plants. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1934.

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