One proposed type of desert planet is one in which the equator and the "tropics" are harsh, hot deserts, but the polar regions are temperate, habitable, and lush with life.
You can see an example of this in the video game "Homeworld": the planet Kharak.

My question is, assuming that such a planet had an atmosphere similar to Earth, and an axial tilt and day/year length similar to Earth, would it be possible for plant life to survive at the poles?

The reason I doubt that this is possible is that the amount sunlight you receive is dependent on the angle of the sunlight, and the angle of sunlight near the poles is always extreme.
Also, the polar regions would experience nights that are months long.
I've read that photosynthesis is not very efficient (see Photosynthetic efficiency).
Would plants be able to get enough energy from sunlight to sustain themselves? And if so, would it be enough to support a full food chain?

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    $\begingroup$ Are there forests in Norway, Sweden and Finland? Is the Siberian and Canadian taiga an urban legend? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 17 '19 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ Ok, good point. I wasn't aware that there were forests inside the arctic circle. However, as you approach the poles, the number of Earth examples of plant-life drops to zero. Does this mean that there would be a ring of plant-life around the poles? $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Sep 17 '19 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ In the current geological period the poles are covered in permanent ice. Such a time period is called an ice age, and the current on-going ice age is called the Quaternary Glaciation; at present we are living in a slightly warmer time (an interglacial) in the ice age which began 2.6 million years ago and has not yet ended. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 17 '19 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ The only reason for a ring of plant life around the poles would be permafrost. It's the temperature that is the main issue here. What our own planet is concerned, as long as there is land, water and soil that is not frozen solid during the summer, a forest should thrive all over the poles (or would be, if the north pole consisted of a land mass). Going into hibernation during the dark period of the year wouldn't be a problem. If animals can do it, so can plants. $\endgroup$ – Tim Hansen Sep 18 '19 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ It seems that even in the Cretaceous, when polar forests were at their lushest, they only extended to latitudes of 85 degrees, implying that yes, there must be a ring of life around the poles. Source: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/… $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Jul 24 at 0:14

There used to be huge forests in the Antarctic during the Cretaceous period.

According to this article, life on desert planets should actually be more likely than many other types of planets, assuming there are at least a few wet areas:


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