Desert plant adaptations and drought effects

With the ongoing and worsening drought in the American Southwest, I was thinking about the crazy native plants. I see Chamisa leafing out and Opuntia flowering like everything’s normal. Some species, like desert willow and Yuccas, are adapted with deep taproots, but many cactus and annuals have mostly fine surface roots that should be totally desiccated by now! Soil moisture in the native silts and sands is regularly less than 10% (gravimetric) between storms and less than 5% with no rain in a couple months in central and western NM.

What interesting research have you done or read on this topic? What are your local observations of happy or dying plants? And how the heck do Russian thistles germinate so easily? (Okay, that’s more of a rant than scientific inquiry.)

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The flowering Apache Plumes also seem to be doing okay although I haven’t done any kind of formal assessment of what’s flowering or sprouting or not. It’s pretty grim in NM right now and I wonder how much worse it will look by June when the heat really cranks up. Hoping for an actual monsoon season this summer.

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Salsola tragus originates from arid regions (steppes and deserts, on seashores and salt lakes), so it sure feels as home there.

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