NATIVE DESERT PLANTS - A SAMPLING
This page provides lists of resources and plants. The first dozen or so photos and links focus on cactus and succulents. Photos of many area desert cactus and succulents are available on the site Galleries. Good resource links have been provided below the OTHER RESOURCES notation. If people utilize at least SOME of the native desert plant material or material from similar deserts, and stretching it a bit...desert adapted plant material...there are fewer struggles for both the gardener and plants. Less modification of soil and less consumption of unnecessary amounts of irrigation can still produce a lovely outdoor living space and reward for the gardener.
The next nine images are part of an unpublished brochure on Cacti and succulents of the Mojave. The compilation was initially assembled by Paula Garrett and Donnie Barnett.
A solitary cylinder cactus to 30in tall and 8in diameter, found from 2300-7500ft elevation. Mojave Devil’s Claw has pink to magenta flowers in May-June. Plants differ from Echinomastus by having hooks. Rare
A medium sized agave growing in clumps, 2-8 ft in diameter. Plants are gray-green in color and have a long white terminal spine. Ivory-billed Agave are found in limestone soils from 3000-6500 ft. Inflorescence reaches a height of 5-15 ft. and flowering occurs in May-June.
An upright growing Cholla to 7 ft tall and 8ft wide, found from 800-6000ft elevation. Plants are often sparsely branched and in the shape of antlers. Buckhorn Cholla flowers brown to orange in April and May. Acantho=spiny, Carpa=fruit.
An upright Cholla forming large fields or groves of plants near the Colorado River below 2100 ft elevation. Very spiny, Teddy-bear cholla’s pads detach easily and are often believed to jump. Inconspicuous green flowers are seen in April and May.
An upright growing Cholla to 4ft tall and 2 ft wide, found from negative -100 to 7300ft elevation. Plants generally have silver or gold spines and are the most common Cholla in Nevada. Plants have yellow-green flowers March to June. Echino=hedgehog, Carpa=fruit.
A sprawling or upright Cholla to 3ft tall and 3ft wide, Found from 3200-4500ft elevation. Plants have yellow-green flowers in March to April. Blue Diamond Cholla has bright yellow fruit that are spineless or nearly spineless. Rare.
A sprawling or upright Cholla to 3ft tall and 4ft wide, Found from 2200-5600ft elevation. Plants have green to rust flowers in May to June. Diamond Cholla has pencil thin stems that are spiny or nearly spineless. Ramosissima= very much branched.
A sprawling or upright Cholla to 4ft tall and 8ft wide, Found from 4000-6900ft elevation. Plants have yellow-green flowers in May to June. Whipple’s Cholla has bright yellow fruit that are spineless or nearly spineless. Plants are less spiny than C. multigeniculata.
A clumping or solitary barrel cactus to 3ft tall and 6ft wide, found from 1200-6700ft elevation. Plants have fragrant yellow flowers in July-August. The plant has cotton covered seed pods that are on top of the plants. Poly= many, Cephalus=heads.
Other Galleries to check out are those from LA Arboretum and from members in our local area include:
A few other resources
Nevada Native Plant Society: This link lists valuable sources of information and plant material. The NNPS is a non-profit organization that may be something that appeals for multiple reasons. The site contains a unique gallery, field trip listings, newsletters, recommendations and on additional reading.
SNWA Plant Search: This site helps homeowners and designers select the area best-suited plants by type (like tree, cacti, shrub, etc.), detail (like flower color, water requirement, height, etc.) and or even by botanical or common name.
UNCE (University of Nevada Cooperative Extension) : The staff (and volunteers they train) support many projects, one of which is their Desert Garden, a good representation of native plant material (tours available). The Master Gardener Program provides a solid series of classes which benefit individuals as well as the community. "Becoming a Desert Gardener," is one of many valuable publications available to the public.
Springs Preserve: A visit to the "HOME" page of their website might make one think this Las Vegas Valley resource is primarily for children. While creating fun educational experiences for children is highly important, the Springs Preserve also provides whole family experiential learning and community involvement. Visiting the gardens and trails is free to the public; becoming a member has benefits as well. An important program they support is the Xeriscape Conversion Series; another is the Southern Nevada Landscape Awards.
And if you are still not convinced about the reasons to learn about growing native or desert adapted plant material, here are a few fast facts that might convince you.
Some people enjoy 100+ degree weather and scorching sun in the summer, but those heat tolerant people are fewer in number than those that prefer slightly cooler conditions. Some people don't mind dry cracked skin, but most would rather have a bit of humidity in the air. While plants are not people, most plant material share climate preferences as do we variable humans. Desert native plant material has evolved to not just survive, but thrive. Below are graphic examples that illustrate just how significantly this climate differs from most of the other regions of the country. The short list of climate information doesn't take into consideration the variable elevation levels here in Southern Nevada. That adds quite another twist to all of these indicators. Speaking of "twists," the winds can combine with weather events that contribute to plant fatality and fertility.
Median Precipitation: Las Vegas may receive 5" to 10" of precipitation annually, instead of from say 20" to 180" throughout other areas of the country. [source:http://www-das.uwyo.edu/~geerts/cwx/notes/chap17/rain_usa.html]
Humidity Range: During the months of April through October the highest humidity levels in this are generally below the comfort level of 50%. [source:https://weatherspark.com/averages/30777/Las-Vegas-Nevada-United-States]
Number of "hot" days: The American Horticulture Society indicates that plants begin to shut down at 86 degrees F. Las Vegas has 131 days over 90 degrees F. and 70 days over 100 degrees F. [source:https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Nevada/Places/las-vegas-temperatures-by-month-average.php]
Coldest temperatures: During December and January the average coldest temperature is less than 40 degrees F. The problem occurs during those months when the lowest temperatures can measure below freezing. The lowest usually (not always) is in the low 20's. During the day, as long as there is sunshine, the temperature goes above the freezing level. [source:https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Nevada/Places/las-vegas-temperatures-by-month-average.php]
Nutrient availability: Alkalinity in the soil further compounds the unique nature of gardening in this area. Higher pH levels bind nutrients into the soil (that is to say, many plants that need these nutrients cannot access them through their roots). Las Vegas is generally between 7.5 and 8.5 on that pH scale. [source: http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/data/altcrops/gisoils.asp]
Enough? Get started with a native or desert garden and drop the "desert denial." Check out the above resources.