GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
The Grand Canyon National Park has an incredible variety of flora within its borders: 1,737 documented species of vascular plants, 195 lichen species, 64 moss species, and 167 species of moss. Much of this variety is owed to the mass elevation change (about 8,000 feet) between the lower river and the towering North Rim. Many different flora communities grow within this spread—nurtured by an assortment of geomophology and climate factors.
A riparian community grows along the Colorado River. Here, dominant species include western honey mesquite, tamarisk, seep willow, arrowweed, coyote willow, and catclaw acacia. Stream orchid, McDougall’s flaveria, and white-flowering redbud tree can also be found here.
Higher up from the Colorado River lies the desert scrub flora. Catclaw acacia, ocotillo, western honey mesquite, four-wing saltbush, mariola, white bursage, creosote bush, big sagebrush, rubber rabbitbrush, and blackbrush are dominant flora within this zone.
As you ascend from the desert scrub—above 6,000 feet—you’ll come across the woodland zone. The Utah, one seed juniper, and pinyon pine woodland is also filled with sagebrush, narrowleaf and banana yucca, snakeweed, Indian ricegrass, needlegrass, winterfat, dropseed, Mormon tea, and Utah agave.
The Ponderosa pine forests can be found in both the South and North rims (6,500-8,200 feet). Besides Ponderosa, New Mexico locust, elderberry, fescue, creeping mahonia, mountain mahogany, and Gambel oak also grow here.
Higher than 8,200 feet, Spruce-fir forests with blue spruce, Douglas fir, Englemann spruce, aspen, mountain ash, and white fir dominating the landscape. Asters, lupines, cinquefoil, yarrow, and sedges also grow within this subalpine zone.
In the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, you can find subalpine grassland and montane meadow flora communities—largely dominated by big galleta, Indian ricegrass, three-awns, and black and blue grama.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Yellowstone National Park’s plant communities pull from species found within the Great Plains, western intermountain region, Great Plains, and Rocky Mountains. About 1,386 native plant species grow within Yellowstone’s unique ecosystems, with only three endemic species: Ross’ bentgrass, Yellowstone sulfur wild buckwheat, and Yellowstone sand verbena.
Common trees visitors can expect to see include Engelmann spruce, white spruce, lodgepole pine, whitebark pine, Douglas fir, Mountain juniper, limber pine, common juniper, subalpine fir, cottonwood, and quaking aspen.
Common shrubs that populate Yellowstone include many varietals of sagebrush, Rocky Mountain maple, and common juniper.
Hundreds of wildflowers grow within Yellowstone, but the Yellow Monkeyflower and the Wyoming paintbrush remain common favorites.
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Bryce Canyon National Park’s desert, highland plateau, and lush lowlands serve to nurture a variety of plant communities.
A wealth of trees and shrubs grow within Bryce Canyon. The Paunsaugunt Plateau’s higher altitudes are dominated by white fir, spruce, and aspen. Within Bryce’s limestone hills, Great Basin Bristlecone pine can be found. Manzanita and Ponderosa pine grow in the intermediate altitudes, while lower elevation areas are dominated by pinyon pine and juniper. Cactus, yucca, and Gambel oak can also be found scattered throughout these lower-elevation pinyon and juniper forests.
A stunning palette of wildflowers also grow within Bryce. Wildflowers you’re likely to see on your Bryce Canyon National Park trip include: Blue flax, Western iris, Bryce Canyon paintbrush, Wyoming paintbrush, Western wallflower, Rock Columbine flower, cinquefoil, rabbitbrush, Many-flowered stoneseed, Showy stoneseed, Red Canyon penstemon, Markagunt penstemon, and Mountain Death-Camas.
ZION NATIONAL PARK
Zion National Park supports over 900 species of plants which grow within its variety of habitats. With elevations spanning 3,600 to 8,700 feet, species from the Mojave Desert, Colorado Plateau, Range, and Basin grow within the park.
In the Aquatic and Riparian habitats, the Virgin River nurtures a variety of cottonwoods, cattails, rushes, willows, and other herbaceous and aquatic plants. In the wetlands, water soaking through the Navajo sandstone sustains Zion’s iconic “hanging gardens” where mosses, ferns, and wildflowers grow.
In the Desert Shrub and Arid Grassland habitats, drought tolerant plants such as desert shrubs, grasses, and cacti grow well.
In the Juniper-Pinyon Forest habitat, desert forests full of junipers, evergreens, and pinyon pines dominate.
Ponderosa pine habitats can be found in Zion’s Navajo sandstone cliffs. Meanwhile, aspen and mixed conifer forests—largely comprised of white pine and Douglas fir—grow best in Zion’s higher plateaus with their volcanic and sedimentary soils.