There are 375 species of plant known to grow in the monument. When wildflowers are not in bloom, most of the vegetation is found in semi-hidden pockets and consists of pine trees, cedars, junipers, and sagebrush. Strategies used by plants to cope with the adverse conditions include:
Drought tolerance by physiological adaptations such as the ability to survive extreme dehydration or the ability to extract water from very dry soil. Sagebrush and Antelope Bitterbrush are examples.
Drought avoidance by having small, hairy, or succulent leaves to minimize moisture loss or otherwise conserve water. Hairs on scorpionweed, the succulent parts of the Pricklypear Cactus, and the small leaves of the Wirelettuce are all local examples.
Syringa sp. in North Crater lava flow crack
Drought escape by growing in small crevices or near persistent water supplies, or by staying dormant for about 95% of the year. Mosses and ferns in the area grow near constant water sources such as natural potholes and seeps from ice caves. Scabland Penstemon, Fernleaf Fleabane, and Gland Cinquefoil grow in shallow crevices. Syringa, Bush Rockspirea, Tansybush, and even Limber Pine grow in large crevices. While Dwarf Monkeyflowers (photo) carry out their entire life cycle during the short wet part of the year and survive in seed form the rest of the time.
A common plant seen on the lava field is the Dwarf Buckwheat (photo), a flowering plant 4 inches (100 mm) tall with a root system 3 feet (0.91 m) wide. The root system monopolizes soil moisture in its immediate area, resulting in individual plants that are evenly spaced. Consequently, many visitors have asked park rangers if the buckwheat were systematically planted.
Wildflowers bloom from early May to late September but most are gone by late August. Moisture from snow-melt along with some rainfall in late spring kick-starts the germination of annual plants, including wildflowers. Most of these plants complete their entire life cycle in the few months each year that moisture levels are good. The onset of summer decreases the number of wildflowers and by autumn only the tiny yellow flowers of sagebrush and rabbitbrush remain. Some wildflowers that grow in the area are the Arrow-leaved Balsamroot, Bitterroot, Blazing Star, Desert Parsley, Dwarf Monkeyflower, Paintbrush, Scorpionweed, Scabland Penstemon and the Wild Onion.
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