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Although succulents can vary greatly in appearance, they share a number of basic fundamental characteristics. The most important of these is the succulent's ability to store water, from which its name is derived. Plants all have a certain degree of succulence. But succulents took this talent to new heights: some can store years' worth of water in either their stems, roots or leaves for times of severe drought. Think of the wide stem of a saguaro cactus or the thick fleshy leaves of an aloe plant, and you're basically looking at an expandable botanical rain barrel. How are they going to collect any water in all those wild environments they inhabit? Many succulents have fantastic root systems completely specialized for their environments. In mountain regions, roots often dig down deep to harvest any subterranean water sources. But up on the plains, their roots are often broadly spread but incredibly shallow in order to catch any moisture that might lick the surface of the land, such as morning dew. Plants wage a constant battle to get all the nutrients they need in order to function. Besides water, they also need sunlight and carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. The CO2 comes in through diffusion so most plants have a huge number of pores, called stomata, to coax it in. But at the same time the sun is providing them with the energy they need to perform photosynthesis, it's also evaporating water (a process that in plants is called transpiration) through the exposed stomata. It's a difficult tightrope to walk, so succulents have managed to get themselves a safety harness.