Manzanita blossoms in the snow NPS photo
Chiricahua National Monument is an area of tremendous diversity, where four biogeographical regions come together. Because of this, over 1000 plant species grow within the Monument's boundary, and many are endemic only to the Chiricahua Mountains.
As you enter the Monument from the west, you will drive through grasslands with over 50 species of grasses, as well as many cacti and succulent species of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. Fingers of riparian vegetation cut through all areas, dominated by Arizona cypress, Arizona sycamore, oaks and juniper. The interior chaparral shrublands are dominated by pointleaf manzanita, leading into the encinal oak woodlands, which are characterized by 7 species of oaks as well as madrone and juniper. Finally, you will arrive in the conifer forests of pines and cypress. Through all of these communities, wildflowers are prolific in the late spring and summer months - creating a truly spectacular array of color and diversity. The understory consists of several varities of ferns as well as shade-tolerant grasses, broad-leaf plants, mushrooms, and mosses. Lichens can be seen growing on trees as well as on the rock pinnacles.
Distribution of these plants is dependent on many factors, such as elevation, soils, aspect, slope, and water availability. Because these factors change so drastically over short distances, the Monument is truly a mosaic of plant communities and assemblages.