Utah Weeds and Wildflowers
Rocks and Sand -- Desert Plants
Utah has two large desert areas -- the Great Basin in the west, and the Colorado Plateau area in the east. There is also a small and very unique area in the southwest corner of the state, the only place in the state where the elevation falls below 4000 ft. This is part of the Mohave Desert. All of these desert areas are largely unsuited for farming, either because of lack of rainfall and a reliable source of irrigation water, or because the soil is too rocky or poor to be plowed and planted. In spite of the harsh environment, it is surprising how many plants can be seen during the short season when the conditions are right for them.
In the Mohave Desert, the striking Joshua Trees seem to be the largest plants, but in the higher deserts the dominant and most visible plants are pinyon and juniper trees. These small trees cover vast areas of the inland western states in what is known as a "Pygmy Forest". Sagebrush is also very common in all of these desert areas.
Often cattle or sheep can be successfully grazed in these areas during the months when the forage is sufficient. Unfortunately, these fragile areas have been seriously overgrazed and abused in past years, allowing erosion to take place. Many non-native species have invaded.
by Sandra Bray