• Steam rises off of the colorful Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. Photo courtesy Jacob W. Frank


    National Park ID,MT,WY


Many-flowered phlox (Phlox multiflora)

The vegetation communities of Yellowstone National Park include overlapping combinations of species typical of the Rocky Mountains as well as of the Great Plains to the east and the Intermountain region to the west. The exact vegetation community present in any area of the park reflects the consequences of the underlying geology, ongoing climate change, substrates and soils, and disturbances created by fire, floods, landslides, blowdowns, insect infestations, and the arrival of nonnative plants.

Today, the roughly 1,300 native species in the park represent the species able to either persist in the area or recolonize after glaciers, lava flows, and other major disturbances. Yellowstone is home to three endemic plant species (including Yellowstone Sand Verbena), at least two of which depend on the unusual habitat created by the park's thermal features. Most vegetation management in the park is focused on minimizing human-caused impacts on their native plant communities to the extent feasible.

There are several vegetation communities in Yellowstone: higher- and lower-elevation forests and the understory vegetation associated with them, sagebrush-steppe, wetlands, and hydrothermal.


Quick Facts about Vegetation in Yellowstone

  • More than 1,300 native plant species
  • 1,150 native flowering species
  • Trees: seven conifers (lodgepole pine, whitebark pine, Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, Douglas-fir, Rocky Mountain juniper, limber pine) and some deciduous species, including quaking aspen and cottonwood.
  • Shrubs: include common juniper, sagebrush (many species), Rocky Mountain maple.
  • Nonnative plant species: 218.
  • Hydrothermal areas support unique plant communities and rare species.
  • Controlling nonnative species, which threaten native species, especially near developed areas; some are spreading into the backcountry.

Additional Resources


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