About 750 species of plants have been identified at Bighorn Canyon. There may still be other varieties hidden away, waiting to be found. As with all living things, plants occur in an infinite variety.
Bighorn Canyon is home to plants of various shapes and forms, reflecting the environment in which each particular species is found. Climatic differences result in 3 major groups of plants at Bighorn Canyon. From the south to the north in the recreation area:
2) Rocky Mountain: the plants in this group exhibit a tremendous amount of variety, from shrubland on lower mountain slopes to heavily forested areas at higher elevations.
3) Great Plains: found in the northern areas of the park around Fort Smith, Montana. Plant species include both prairie grasses and wildflowers, such as big bluestem grass, purple prairie clover and blazing star.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Bighorn Canyon is that these diverse species are located in such a relatively small area. Some plants are short-lived, while others last for many years: some are showy and beautiful, others drab and plain.
With the stress caused by the introduction of exotic species, overgrazing, and soil erosion many native plants are at a critical time in their existence. Through better-managed grazing practices, control of off-road vehicles, and eradication of certain nonnative species, hopefully all the native plants of Bighorn Canyon will thrive in the coming years.
Did You Know?
There are five distinct rock layers exposed in the ridge at Horseshoe Bend. The Sundance Formation contains marine fossils such as gryphaea, belemnites, and crinoid stems. Above the Sundance, the Morrison Formation, of Jurassic age, contains diplodocus and allosaurus dinosaur fossils. More...