The arid lands of Wupatki National Monument support a large number of plants which are well-adapted to a desert environment. The gray-green foliage which characterizes much of the landscape absorbs less heat than the dark green leaves found in wetter and cooler areas. Many of the leaves are small to reduce water loss; others have a thick waxy coating. Succulent plants store water in their leaves or in their stems. Desert plants have either extensive shallow root systems that quickly absorb the occasional rainfall or very deep roots that tap water sources far below the soil surface.
Watch for the appearance of the yucca at Wupatki. It consists of a cluster of long, pointed leaves, developing a tall stalk in the spring which is covered first with large white blossoms and later, seed pods. Mormon tea looks like a cluster of leafless green twigs, but there are actually tiny leaves at the joints of the stems. Sagebrush, identified by scent and pale-green, slightly hairy small leaves, grows in clumps throughout the area.
The warm spring weather and summer rains bring many otherwise nondescript plants into bloom. Many will flower once in the spring and again only if it rains. This is only a partial description of some of the more familiar and frequently seen plants of Wupatki National Monument, but we encourage you to learn more about the plant life of the area. Remember, when admiring the plants in the park, please leave the blossoms, seed pods, and fruit for others to see and also to produce another generation.