• 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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  • Partial park closures from flood damage.

    Most trails and roads in the park have reopened. Current closures include the Frijole Foothills Loop, McKittrick Ridge, the northern El Capitan Trail section leading to Williams Ranch, and the Salt Basin Dunes Road. Call 915-828-3251 for info.

Plants

An explosion of wildflowers blanket the desert along the Smith Spring Trail.

A sea of annual wildflowers blankets the slopes along the Smith Springs Trail.

NPS Photo - Cookie Ballou

The biological diversity within Guadalupe Mountains National Park is outstanding and includes more than 1000 species of plants. While many of these are common desert species such as ocotillo and prickly pear cactus, others are found only in the park and nowhere else in the world.

In part, the amazing diversity can be attributed to significant geographical variations in an extremely rugged landscape. Steep-walled canyons, highcountry ridge tops, wide-open expanses of desert lowland, and lush riparian oases provide opportunity for unique and contrasting life zones that span across thousands of acres with over 6000’ of elevation difference.

Plants that grow here are tough. They survive not only the components that make up the landscape, but also the extremes of temperature, aridity, and relentlessly powerful winds, all common factors of the park’s desert climate. Plants have evolved elegant methods of tolerating or avoiding desert conditions. Some such as cactus have thick fleshy stems that store water, and spines that not only serve as fierce armor against predators, but also help reflect the sun’s radiant heat. Many species avoid desert extremes by clinging tightly to limited but dependable seeps and shaded springs. Annual wildflowers that grow here avoid the drought altogether with a compressed, complete life cycle – from sprout to seed – that occurs only in conjunction with summer’s monsoon rains.

Did You Know?

Indian Paintbrush

The fiery, red-orange tips of the Indian Paintbrush are bracts of the plant that conceal the actual flowers. Most if not all paintbrush species are hemiparisitic, and depend on other plants to supply water and nutrients.