Lesson Plan

Adaptation of Plants to Cedar Glades

Tennessee Coneflower in Cedar Glade
The Tennessee Coneflower is one of several species that have adapted to the harsh conditions found in middle Tennessee cedar glades.

National Park Service

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Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Ninth Grade
Biodiversity, Biology: Plants, Botany, Ecology
Two 50-minute class periods
Group Size:
Up to 24
National/State Standards:
Common Core Standards: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.1 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4

Tennessee Course Level Expectations and State Performance Indicators: Science - GLE 0507.2.1, GLE 0507.4.2, GLE 0607.2.3, Social Studies  - 5.3.02, 6.3.02, 6.3.04, 7.3.02.


Grades:  5-9

Subjects: Science (Biology), American History (Civil War)

Common Core Standards:  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6–8 texts and topics.


Guiding Question:  What types of adaptations do plants need for survival in a cedar glade?

Critical Content:  Students will be able to describe the adaptations that are required and present in plants that are found in the cedar glades.

Student Objectives:

At the end of this activity, students will be able to:

  • Describe the characteristics of a cedar glade and limitations to the survival of plants in a cedar glade;
  • Explain how plants and animals have adapted to living in dry climates such as a cedar glade; and
  • Demonstrate plants ability to adapt by locating and describing plants found in cedar glades.


When settlers first arrived in the mid-south, they observed locations where there were no trees. They named these locations "glades". Approximately 43 acres of these rare cedar glades are present in Stones River National Battlefield. Cedar glades are, as expected, treeless because of very shallow soils. Many of the plants within the glades are endemic, which means they are found exclusively in cedar glades. This plant life is mostly composed of non-woody plants. Plants have adapted to these extreme micro-climates.  

Cedar glades consist of extreme climatic conditions. Winter temperatures in glades are analogous to those of neighboring forest; however, summer temperatures are frequently 10 to 30 degrees higher. Thin glade soils tend to remain waterlogged throughout much of the wet winter and early spring, but dry rapidly during the summer. Then the glade becomes desert like.

Glade plants, like many desert plants, have unique ways of surviving hot, dry summers. Plants that grow in thin soils have very shallow roots and are small. Several glade plants create flowers early in spring and release seeds before the harsh conditions develop. Others plants produce a lot of seeds and a have a life cycle that is very quick. Several glade plants are perennials. They have abundant belowground stems or bulbs that store food. Still others stay alive by having extensive root systems that absorb water from soil under rocks or by storing water in leaves. Other adaptations consist of a plant’s inability to be used as a food source for animals or the manufacture of chemicals that prevent the growth of other plants.





plastic wrap

sponges (1 for each group of three students)

balance scale (1 for each group of three students)



Adaptation, evolution, cedar glade, habitat, ecosystem

Last updated: April 14, 2015