• The Western Escarpment of the Guadalupes rises above the white gypsum sands of the desert floor.

    Guadalupe Mountains

    National Park Texas

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  • Trail closures from flood damage.

    Three trails remain closed: Bear Canyon Trail, El Capitan Trail from the Pine Springs trailhead, and the Salt Basin Overlook Loop section that begins at Guadalupe Canyon. For more information please call 915-828-3251

Ferns

Visitors are often surprised to find ferns growing in the desert.

One of the best places to observe desert ferns is along the McKittrick Canyon Nature Trail.

NPS Photo - Cookie Ballou

Although usually associated with moist tropical regions, ferns are found in almost every imaginable habitat in the world's temperate zones, including deserts. Perennial ferns are often found growing in moisture-retaining crevices, a viable adaptation for survival in the desert. They remain dormant throughout most of the year, simply awaiting infrequent rains to grow and reproduce.

Desert ferns possess excellent drought-resistant features, including hardened and thickened tissues, a waxy layer covering leaf surfaces, highly dissected leaves, leaves that curl into compact balls, and leaf and stem surface hairs. These features help to disperse heat, reduce evaporation, and retard the destructive effects of hot winds.

Typically, ferns are composed of an underground stem (rhizome) with roots and a number of compound green leaves (fronds) that extend well above ground. They lack flowers or seeds. In season, clusters of tiny capsules containing numerous ripening spores develop on the undersides of the leaflets. Eventually the capsules snap open, catapulting millions of minute spores into the breeze. These may remain viable for years. Ferns may also reproduce by means of creeping rootstocks.

Did You Know?

Big Tooth Maples turn color in the Guadalupes in late October or early November.

As the green chlorophyll pigment in an aging leaf disintegrates and disappears, other pigments or colors already within the leaf appear. For example, shades of yellow and orange, are caused by the presence of xanthophyll and carotin.