Many people can only think of words like "desolate" and "barren" when they imagine what a desert must look like. In reality, though, these arid places have more life within them than first meets the eye as you scan quickly across what first appears as empty wasteland.
Plant life in the Nevada desert consists of a significant number of organisms such as cactus, shrubs, trees and other plants. Amazingly enough, much of this plant life can do more than simply look pretty out in the sun. Only when a person understands all a little bit about the plant life within this part of the Mojave desert, and what it can do, will they recognize the true beauty of this sprawling region.
There are a variety of different types of shrubs that grow in the Nevada desert. Many of these shrubs, in fact, can be found all over the Mojave.
Creosote bush: This shrub extends all across the Mojave Desert and down into north-central Mexico. The shrub grows beautiful yellow flowers, and science can confirm that the creosote bush can live to be thousands of years old. Indigenous peoples have been using the bush for years to treat certain illnesses, but they’re also able to harvest a type of sealing wax from the bush.
California juniper: Though it obviously gets its name from The Golden State, California juniper is a mainstay in certain parts of the Nevada desert. This shrub provides food for wild horses, elk, deer and a variety of other animals. Juniper berries are also used to make a sweet tasting cake.
There are also numerous species of cactus in the Nevada desert. Their appearances vary wildly, and with certain plants, it might be hard to even identify them as cactus. Regardless, most of these beautiful plants have many properties outside of just pricking our fingers.
Viviparous Foxtail Cactus: Though it doesn’t do much in the line of additional uses, this foxtail cactus still makes up part of the ecosystem in the Nevada desert. It only grows to around six inches tall, but its magenta or pink flowers, which sprout midyear, are amongst the most beautiful in the region.
Barrel Cactus: The barrel cactus can actually change size, depending upon how much water the plant is holding. While a bitter but consumable fruit does grow on the cactus, the idea that water from the plant can be utilized is a dangerous one. In fact, the water in these plants is more likely to induce vomiting than hydrate a person.
It’s a bit hard to imagine trees out in the middle of the Nevada desert, but they’re sure there. Obviously, these trees may be different than those most people are accustomed to. Some even have the capability to give the gift of life to those lost in the desert.
California Fan Palm: This strong tree can grow up to 82 feet high, and dying parts of the tree create what looks like a skirt around its base. When lost in the desert, seeing one of these trees could mean the difference between impending death and life. They only grow where water is present, and this means they’re usually located in oases. Add this to the fact that this tree produces fruit, and Native Americans used its leaves to waterproof their shelters for centuries. This is undeniably one useful tree.
Joshua Tree: The Joshua tree is one of the most recognizable trees of the Nevada desert. Unfortunately, scientists believe these trees may dwindle to a fraction of their current population by the 22nd century. This is due to the fact that the Shasta ground sloth, now-extinct, was integral to its spread. This would change surrounding ecosystems, but Native Americans would also lose a resource that they have long used to create dishes and sandals.
It’s a little easier to understand that shrubs and trees grow in the Nevada desert. After all, they have to grow somewhere, right? People are more surprised, though, by the gorgeous wildflowers that can be found to prosper out in the arid atmosphere.
Apricot Mallow: This spring-blooming wildflower has an orange tint and can grow to be three feet tall. It’s a beautiful flower that also bears fruit. In fact, members of the Shoshone Native American tribe, which only numbers 5,000 people today, have used the wildflower for medical purposes on top of consuming it as food.
Mojave Poppy: The stark contrast created by this wildflower’s yellow petals has earned it the name "desert goldenpoppy." Other than beauty, the Mojave Poppy doesn’t have much use. They are interesting, though, in the fact that their seeds are spread by flooding due to their buoyancy.
While the aforementioned list is a pleasant representation of Nevada plant life, it is not even close to being all inclusive. The Nevada desert is home to some of the most beautiful and unique plant life in America. It just goes to show that the Vegas Strip isn’t the only thing in Nevada worth seeing. Article by Vegas Off Road Tours the best Las Vegas ATV tours company!