Cave Plants To Identify When You Go Spelunking

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Spelunking is just one of the many ways to explore your surroundings. But, itג€™s also a way to find some solitude and get your mind working in new ways. It also gives you a chance to get away from society and spend time with nature. And what better way to do that than exploring a cave?
Even if youג€™re not into the spooky kind of exploration, caving is still an amazing experience. You get to meet different animals and plants in their natural habitat, which can be quite interesting if you know what youג€™re looking at. Here are some plants you probably wonג€™t see while exploring a cave but are common there nonetheless.

What plants grow in caves?

One of the plants you probably wonג€™t find in a cave is the sword fern, which is a plant that grows near water. Itג€™s usually found in tropical rainforests and swamps. The sword fern doesnג€™t need light to survive, so it can grow only underneath trees or in caves. It thrives in drier areas too with its roots reaching as deep as ten feet down.
Thereג€™s also an Australian silver grass that grows locally and has been seen in caves for more than 500 million years! The silver grass has tiny hairs on its leaves that trap moisture and drop it down to the roots during times of drought. This plant is quite hardy, surviving temperatures as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit/-10 degrees Celsius.
Lastly, thereג€™s the narrow-leafed iceplant, which is also a type of alpine plant but one you may see while exploring a cave. It thrives at high altitudes because it needs no sunlight to survive. When it needs more moisture, it drinks up snowmelt from nearby mountainsides and other areas where precipitation falls during winter months.

Can there be plants in caves?

Yes, caves can be home to a variety of plants. What youג€™ll find in a cave is the light that comes from the entrance and reflects off the walls. What does this affect? The plants in a cave will all have very different colors and textures.
Some of these plants are moss, mushrooms, or other types of fungi. There will be several species of moss and one plant species that grows without soil. Additionally, there are also various types of algae that grow in caves. Some algal species pump oxygen into the water while others give off an odor similar to rotting flesh.
One plant you might see is Juncus roemerianus. This type of vegetation only grows near streams and creeks with flowing water and prefers acidic soil with a pH 4-6 range. While it can survive in both wet and dry conditions, it prefers moist soil where it can grow roots deep inside the ground to find nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, copper, and iron.
Some more common plants include algae like Chlamydomonas nivalis (green), Oscillatoria limnophila (maroon), or Spirogyra sphenoides (blue). Additionally, you may see mosses like Dicranum scoparium (white) or Hypnum cupressiforme (gray).

What trees grow in caves?

Tall trees make for taller caves, so you might find yews or white pines in your cave. But when spelunking, you’ll likely see trees like the Eastern White Pine, the Sugar Maple, and the American Beech.
The mosses that grow in these caves might be different than the ones that grow on land. That’s because they can’t get enough sunlight to grow their leaves. So, they use a different strategy to survive outside: they live off carbon dioxide and moisture from water droplets instead of light.
But if you’re looking for a plant that would really stand out in a cave, try finding Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridum). This plant is what makes up the “devil’s backbone” — it has a long stem with ridges running along it.

What do you need to go spelunking?

A flashlight, a headlamp, and a water bottle are all essentials to explore any cave. Along with these necessities, youג€™ll want to bring a good camera, jean shorts or some comfortable clothes that can get wet. To be safe and minimize the risks of getting lost in a cave, make sure you know how to use your headlamp properly and carry your map along with you.
If you decide to spelunking for more than two hours at a time, itג€™s recommended that you take frequent breaks so that you donג€™t overheat. If you have any health issues or allergies, make sure they are under control before going caving. Here are some plants that may or may not grow in caves but are common there nonetheless:

-Coralroot
-Knight’s-Hood (Cotoneaster)
-Pinesap
-Purple Loosestrife

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Beth Kent

Beth Kent

Hi, Welcome to my caving world!
I've been caving for the past 23 years, and through these years, I have learned so much about caving life and its techniques. I genuinely believe that caving is one of the most fascinating activities out there, and if you haven't tried it yet, you should!

About Me

The exploration of natural or artificial caverns from casual trips to caves with well-established trails to expeditions into remote and largely unexplored caverns is a great passion for me for the past 15 years. Sharing it here with you is my new hobby so I hope  you enjoy :)

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