• Sierra del Carmen

    Big Bend

    National Park Texas

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  • Extreme Water Shortage

    Extreme water shortage throughout park. Visitors are limited to 5 gallons per day, and are encouraged to conserve further when possible. Please consider bringing your own water to the park.

Trees and Shrubs

Texas Madrone
Texas Madrone (peeling bark)
NPS Photo/Cookie Ballou
 

In much of the Chihuahuan desert, shrubs, succulents, and cacti, dominate the landscape, while trees are few in number and in total number of species. Trees generally need more water, cooler temperatures, and higher humidity than the desert climate has to offer, and that restricts them to ridge tops, canyons and riparian zones. The Chisos Mountains are forested primarily with piñon, oak, and juniper, but other high elevation trees are also present including quaking aspen, douglas fir, drooping juniper, bigtooth maple, and ponderosa pine.

Trees that grow in the lower desert elevations, such as honey mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa, often grow no taller than shrubs and are easily confused with shrubs because they possess similar physical characteristics such as small leaves and sharp spines. Cottonwoods, sycamore, ash, and huisache also grow at lower elevations, and shade the Rio Grande Village and Cottonwood campgrounds and Daniels Ranch picnic area. Beyond these manicured areas, typical vegetation by the river also includes willows, ratama, and tamarisk or saltcedar.

Shrubs, on the other hand, are numerous and widespread in the Chihuahuan desert. Average elevations in this desert (above 3000') allow for colder winters which many shrub species can tolerate, while most cacti and succulents cannot. Common shrubs in Big Bend include creosote bush, cenizos, sumacs, and guayacan. The desert ecosystem relies heavily on the presence of shrub vegetation as do many of the other plants and animals.

 
Huisache

Common Trees
Trees in Big Bend National Park include a few tough desert varieties, ones that hug the river banks and those that prefer the higher, cooler elevations. more...

Did You Know?

Santa Elena Canyon

Including two protected areas in Mexico, Big Bend is now part of one of the largest transboundary protected areas in North America. More than two million acres of Chihuahuan Desert resources, along with more than 200 miles of river, are now under the protection of the United States and Mexico. More...