Plants in temperate grasslands need to adapt to cold winters, hot summers, and drying winds. Since plant dryness is always a factor in every temperate grassland, plants have adapted ways to conserve water. One way they conserve water is by having thin, needle-like shaped leaves that expose little of the plant to the sun. Seventy percent of the plant is also underground, avoiding sun and wind. Some grasses even slow their respiratory rate so less water is lost to the sun.
Grasses are almost impossible to kill. They have extensive root webs that prevent grazing animals from pulling their roots out of the ground. Since grass grows upward from its base, it is less likely to be damaged by fires, animals, and humans than are most other plants. This is one reason why grass grows back after it has been mowed.
During dry winter months, the grass's roots find water deep underground. One single grass plant in the steppe or prairie may have a network of roots and root hair that equal two to three miles (3.2 to 4.8 kilometers) long.
There are two different growing types in the temperate grasslands: perennial and annual plants. Perennial plants grow and live for several years, whereas annual plants grow in one season and die in another. There are two types of annual plants. One type, called warm-season annuals, sprout in the spring and grow in the summer. The other type, cool-season annuals, sprout in the fall and grow in the spring.