This Garden Vocabulary series seeks to introduce and explain to you — and in many cases, myself — words and terms associated with gardening. Please let me know if there are any terms you would like me to explore. You can leave your ideas in the comments section and we can learn together!
“Acclimatization, or acclimation in English-speaking countries other than the US, is the process in an individual organism adjusting to a gradual change in its environment (such as a change in temperature, humidity, photoperiod, or pH), allowing it to maintain performance across a range of environmental conditions.”
Wikipedia, Acclimatization/acclimation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acclimatization
My reading shows that acclimatization/acclimation is what happens to plants over the long term that allows them to exist outside their normal growing zones and through periods of adverse weather or other conditions. Both plants and animals can undergo acclimatization and there are many tactics they can use. They can adjust to difficult growing areas and periods by changing their biochemistry — how they create, process and store important elements like water, sugars, proteins and enzymes to better protect them against the adverse conditions.
Plants can also change their shape and growing habits — their morphology. I think we have all seen plants that have grow smaller or leggier in adverse conditions. They can also change the way they grow in search of light and water. Using both of these methods, or some combination, can allow plants to survive in areas and conditions outside their normal range.
Further reading on Acclimatization/Acclimation:
- Acclimatization/Acclimation, Full article from Wikipedia
- Acclimatization (biology) — Britannica Online Encyclopedia
- Acclimating Plants Outdoors, Urban Programs Resource Network
- The molecular biology of plant acclimation to low temperature, Journal of Experimental Botany (PDF)
- How to Harden Off Plants: Acclimating and Preparing Seedlings for Transplant by Hardening Them Off
- Acclimatization Tips: Bringing Indoor Plants Outside, Apartment Therapy