Non-native Plants

Two people, in protective gear, use chain saws to cut down a large tree.

With the high level of diversity of habitat available, and the long history of human use, Death Valley has a number of non-native plant species that can be found within the park. Park staff works to eradicate the invasive non-native plant species through a variety of means, depending on the species type. Some invasive plants are so difficult to find and remove that they are unlikely to be completely removed from the park.

How can you help?

  • If you identify a location of a non-native species, please let us know- E-mail us or post a photo and location on the iNaturalist site or app.
  • Prevent spread! Clean your hiking shoes and vehicle tires before coming to the park to help prevent more non-native species from being accidentally brought here!
 
 

Invasive Plants: Top Species

 
large green trees with a sawyer dressed in bright yellow gear
Tamarisk removal in a wash near Furnace Creek.

NPS photo

Tamarisk

Tamarix ramosissima (salt cedar)
Tamarix aphylla (athel)

Tamarisk are trees that grow deep roots and have long slender branches covered with distinctive gray-green scale-like leaves. Pink flower clusters form at the ends of the branches and give the trees a feathery appearance.

Introduced from Asia and planted in the Furnace Creek and Cow Creek areas as a windbreak and an ornamental, these trees have spread to springs and other natural areas. They threaten wetland ecosystems, as their rapid growth (up to 12 feet in a season) can lead to their quickly outcompeting native plant species. Additionally, the large quantities of groundwater the plants consume and release into the air through their leaves threaten the existence of some water sources. This can lead to the drying of springs and seeps which are vital to other species. Dense groves of tamarisk also trap soils, which can lead to narrow channels that make flash flooding more intense.

 
tall palm trees in desert scenery
Fan palms growing by Ibex Spring.

NPS / J. Jurado

California Fan Palms

Washingtonia filifera

Named for 3-6 foot long fan-like leaves, this sturdy palm tree can quickly grow up to 60 feet tall. Unlike other palms, dead leaves droop down alongside the trunk rather than dropping off, giving these a shaggy appearance and their other common name of "Petticoat Palm." In summer, creamy white flowers bloom in clusters up to 15 feet long and produce black pea-sized sees that are readily spread by birds.

Native to Baja California and the Sonoran Desert, these trees were introduced as ornamental species. Their rapid growth, along with ability to spread with easily dispersed seeds, make them a serious threat to native plants which need the space and scarce water taken up by these palms.

 
palm trees and a blue sky
Historic palm groves near Furnace Creek.

NPS / J. Jurado

Date Palms

Phoenix dactylifera

These palms feature pinnately compound (feather-shaped) leaves up to 16 feet long. They are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers grow on different plants. Female trees produce numerous (up to 1,000 per bunch) edible date fruits.

Native to the Middle East, these trees have been cultivated since at least 3000 BCE, and since have been grown across the globe. They were planted in Death Valley as ornamental and agricultural trees, and wildlife have spread their seeds to natural areas such as springs and seeps. They threaten important and sensitive water resources by crowding out native species and consuming lots of water.

 
pink flowers and evergreen leaves
Historic oleander plantings at the Death Valley Ranch.

NPS / Mark Hassett

Oleander

Nerium olenader

This large evergreen shrub may grow up to 25 feet tall, and bloom with showy white, pink, or red flowers. Widely planted in the Southwest as an ornamental, it is both invasive and highly toxic, containing more than fifty toxic compounds. Use of the wood for cooking or inhaling the smoke is dangerous; eating any part of the plant can be lethal.

 
a plant with velcro like hairs on leaves and a tiny pink four petal flower
Tiny purple flowers are found at the end of the stiff branches.

NPS / Jacob Frank

African Mustard

Strigosella africana

This non-native wildflower comes from Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. It has been seen in Death Valley in middle elevations, on alluvial fans, and along roadsides. Plants can be up to one foot tall and mostly grow sideways. The leaves and stems are stiff and covered in small branched white hairs. It blooms in the summertime with four quarter-inch long pink petals.

 

Sahara Mustard

Brassica tournefortii

This mustard sprouts readily in many soil types, including roadsides, rocky hills, and sandy flats. Flower stalks are mostly leafless, growing to two feet tall with small yellow flowers on top.

Native to Eurasia, this plant has spread to 5 states in the Desert Southwest. Plants are self-pollinating, and each can produce up to 16,000 seeds enclosed in a sticky film, so they get stuck to cars, clothing, and animals and spread quickly. It begins sprouting up to one month prior to most native wildflowers, allowing it to take up nutrients and water before native species can.

 

Russian Thistle

Salsola spp.

Also called Tumbleweed, this plant is native to southeastern Russia and western Siberia. This branched annual herb tends to grow in disturbed areas, such as road edges or illegal off-road vehicle tracks. It has a deep and efficient taproot, which breaks off when the plant dries, allowing the rounded dried up plant to efficiently roll and disperse its seeds across great distances.

It poses a threat to Wilderness and developed areas as the spiny brittle bushes clog ditches, catchments, pile up along buildings, and create a fire hazard.

 

Non-native Plants Species List

  • Acacia greggi
  • Acroptilon repens
  • Agrostis stolonifera
  • Ailanthus altissima
  • Amaranthus albus
  • Anagallis arvensis
  • Apium graveolens
  • Arundo donax
  • Asparagus asparagoides
  • Asparagus officinalis
  • Avena sativa
  • Bassia hyssopifolia
  • Bassia scoparia
  • Brahea armata
  • Brassica tournefortii
  • Bromus diandrus
  • Bromus mad. ssp. rubens
  • Bromus tectorum
  • Capsella bursa-pastoris
  • Centaurea melitensis
  • Centaurea solstitialis
  • Ceratophyllum submersum
  • Chamaesyce maculata
  • Chenopodium album
  • Chenopodium botrys
  • Chilopsis linearis
  • Conyza bonariensis
  • Conyza canadensis
  • Cortaderia selloana
  • Cotoneaster microphyllus
  • Cotoneaster pannosus
  • Cynodon dactylon
  • Descurainia sophia
  • Drosanthemum hispidum
  • Erodium cicutarium
  • Eucalyptus sp.
  • Euphorbia peplus
  • Ficus carica
  • Fraxinus uhdei
  • Gnaphalium luteo-album
  • Grindelia squarrosa
  • Halogeton glomeratus
  • Hedera helix
  • Hordeum spp.
  • Juglans californica
  • Lactuca serriola
  • Lantana camara
  • Malcolmia africana
  • Malus domestica
  • Malus sylvestris
  • Malva parviflora
  • Marrubium vulgare
  • Medicago polymorpha
  • Melilotus albus
  • Melilotus indicus
  • Melilotus officinalis
  • Mentha spicata
  • Myriophyllum aquaticum
  • Nerium oleander
  • Olea europaea
  • Parkinsonia aculeata
  • Parkinsonia aculeata x
  • Parkinsonia floridum
  • Pennisetum setaceum
  • Phoenix canariensis
  • Phoenix dactylifera
  • Polypogon monspeliensis
  • Prunica granatum
  • Pyrus sp.
  • Ricinus communis
  • Robinia pseudoacacia
  • Rubus armeniacus
  • Saccharum ravennae
  • Salsola gobicola
  • Salsola paulsenii
  • Salsola tragus
  • Schinus terebinthifolius
  • Schismus spp.
  • Secale cereale
  • Sisymbrium altissimum
  • Sisymbrium irio
  • Sisymbrium orientale
  • Sonchus asper
  • Sonchus oleraceus
  • Stenotaphrum secondatum
  • Tamarix aphylla
  • Tamarix ramosissima
  • Taraxacum officinale
  • Tribulus terrestris
  • Ulmus procera
  • Ulmus pumila
  • Vinca major
  • Washingtonia filifera
  • Washingtonia robusta
  • Xanthium strumarium


Last updated: September 29, 2021

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Death Valley , CA 92328

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