The Chiricahua mountains are surrounded by grasslands.  The low, rolling hills have numerous species of native and non-native grasses, and other desert shrubland species as well (such as agave and yucca).
Desert grassland

NPS photo

Grasslands surround the Chiricahua mountains, but some species of grasses also occur at the higher elevations, growing in the understory of the pine forests. There are over 90 species of grasses in this part of Arizona - a mixture of those from the Sonoran desert, the Chihuahuan desert, and the mountain regions, as well as introduced varieties. The grasses are often intermixed with other plants, such as annual wildflowers, cacti and small perrenial shrubs, and these areas provide food and cover for many small rodents, reptiles and birds.

Non-native grasses, introduced accidentally or intentionally, have invaded many of the grassland meadows, along with woody species such as juniper and mesquite. Frequent fire is what naturally maintains most grasslands, preventing woody species from becoming established, but fire does not solve the problem of non-native grass invasion, and in fact, many non-native grasses are stimulated by fire. It is an ongoing challenge to try and prevent non-native grasses from moving further into the native grasslands, as their seeds are often carried on the wind, or on the fur (or clothing) of animals that pass through the area.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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