While no plants are able to survive on the saltpans in the lowest elevation areas of Death Valley, the park has nearly 70 species of grasses that grow from the moist areas of the valley floor up to the highest peaks.
Low Elevation & Salt Pans
This grass is common throughout North America and is found in almost every county of California. It occurs in the lower elevations of Death Valley along the salt pans and springs. The stiff stems have narrow leaves up to 4 inches long. In salty environments these leaves can be covered in a salt crystals that have been excreted from the plant. These grasses have yellow-green flowers, and sometimes pinkish-purple flowers, through the late spring, but spread mainly through their long, tough rhizomes that allow them to cover large areas.
Indian Rice Grass
Eureka Valley Dune Grass
Upper Elevation Pinyon-Juniper Woodland
This species of rye is common west of the Mississippi river. It occurs in ecosystems from alpine forests and desert sage scrub to valley grasslands, but in Death Valley is only found in high elevations. This grass is easily identified by its fluffy tail-like seed head and is found in dry open areas. It has been a popular grass for grazing livestock throughout the western U.S.
James' galleta occurs in the Funeral Range, Last Chance Range, and Saline Range in Death Valley. It grows in bunches of thin and tall stems up to 25 inches tall, with long, flat bladed leaves at its base. It produces relatively few seeds and spreads mainly by underground rhizomes.
Last updated: November 29, 2020