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Ecosystems

Steppe biome
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Plants of the steppe

The steppe is a biome with herbaceous vegetation. The western steppes, which are more humid, are extremely rich in species. In the wet areas formed by melted snow, small trees and shrubs grow, especially poplars and aspens, which sometimes cluster into small woods. Conversely, in eastern steppes the vegetation is poorer and without trees. Everywhere the vegetation mainly consists of graminaceous plants, herbs that sometimes can be 2 metres tall as in the great Chinese “grass sea”. Some species of pulse vegetables and composites also grow here. In the south-American steppe lives a very rare and exceptional plant: the Titanca (Puya raimondii), a typical plant of the puna, i.e. the Andean steppe of Peru and Bolivia. It grows 4,000 metres above sea level and reaches 10 metres tall; it looks like a huge pineapple. It blooms and bears fruit only when old, generally when over one hundred years old. Threatened by breeding and farming, it is rarer than it used to be, and in many areas it seems to be actually disappearing.

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