Program of “Plants under the snow” course (IWES)

This course description relates to International Winter Ecology School


  • Snow. Is it source or solution of plant’s problems? Why do terrestrial plants drop their leaves in autumn?
  • Evergreen trees and shrubs in temperate and cold climates. The diversity of adaptations, which allow these plants to survive the cold snowy winter.
  • Plants under the snow. Unexpectedly high diversity of the evergreen and wintergreen species of terrestrial plants.
  • The role of buds in the survival of plants inhabiting the regions with temperate or cold climates: protection of shoot tips against the negative temperatures and dehydration.
  • Different types of buds and their structure: scaly and naked buds, vegetative, reproductive and mixed buds. How plants with the naked buds do survive in temperate climate? What can we learn about the plant evolution studying the plants during the winter?
  • Anatomy of reproductive buds containing the developing flowers or inflorescences.
  • The methods and approaches of the winter plant identification: using the bud and bark morphology and anatomy.
  • Anatomy of a plant stem. The periderm and the bark structure. Morpho-anatomical and functional adaptations of the stem of woody plants evolved in cold climate. Do they differ from the adaptations of subtropical plants?

Day 1

Field excursion: trees and shrubs in the cold snowy winter.
Laboratory study of buds, their structure and their role in the winter plant identification.

Day 2

Field excursion: plants under the snow. The snow will be removed from several grounds to collect evergreen and wintergreen plants for laboratory study. Laboratory study of the leaves of evergreen herbaceous and woody plants and wintergreen herbaceous plants will be performed. The aim is to study anatomical features and functional adaptations to the low temperatures and dehydration.

Day 3

Workshop on the following subjects: Anatomy of the plant stem, Anatomical characteristics, which provide the survival of plants in winter.
Laboratory study of the stem anatomy in the herbaceous and woody plants will be performed. The structure of the wood, vessels and bark will be analyzed. How do the plants defend themselves against the dehydration?

Individual student projects:

  1. Anatomical features of the leaf and the bark, which help plants to survive.

    How do evergreen plants survive under the snow? What kind of changes occurs in the plant structures during the transformation of a young individual into the mature plant, which cannot hide itself under the snow?

    Description of the project: Students are aimed to perform a detailed description of the gross anatomy and tissue structure of the leaf, bark and wood of the woody and herbaceous plants. They will pay special attention to the structure of the cell wall in the epidermis, chlorenchima and phellema. They will learn how to distinguish between the different ecological groups of plants. They will find and describe anatomical structures, which help plants to survive during winter.

  2. Floral development and plant behavior.

    There are a lot of plants, flowering in spring. What kind of buds do they have? Do they have completely formed flowers inside the buds or they have to complete formation of flowers before the flowering in spring?

    Description of the project: Students are aimed to characterize the morphology and inner structure of plant buds. They will identify the primordia of the stem, leaf and flower in the buds of species, which belong to different ecological groups. They will also describe the specific features of floral structures in the buds of plants flowering in spring.