The most widespread form of plant life in Nevada is sagebrush, especially big sagebrush. Sagebrush grows in most of the nonsalty soils of the northern basins, especially between altitudes of 1,500 and 2,100 m (5,000 and 7,000 ft). Most of the state’s northern portion, therefore, has a low, bushy cover of these silver-gray plants and grasses, making up what is generally considered the typical Nevada landscape. Most of the sagebrush plants are widely spaced, occupying only a small part of the land surface. In some places the sagebrush grows 3 m (10 ft) high. Several other shrubs, such as winter fat, and ephedra, commonly called Mormon tea, are often found together with sagebrush. Rabbit brush grows where the land is too saline for sagebrush. In the north there are also numerous kinds of grasses.
The spread of cheat grass, introduced from Asia near the beginning of the 20th century, has become a problem in Nevada. The grass takes moisture and nutrients from native species, causing their decline, and has been associated with an increased occurrence of wildfires since the 1950s.
The drier and hotter parts of the state, in west central and southern Nevada, have a vegetation of shadscale, saltbush, greasewood, and Nevada ephedra. These bushy plants have a maximum height of about 30 cm (about 12 in), and are widely spaced. In the hottest parts of the state, in the desert areas extending south from Logandale, Las Vegas, and Beatty, the vegetation is composed largely of creosote bush and burroweed, or white bur-sage. Also in this area are several species of cactus and yucca. One interesting type of yucca is the Joshua tree, with oddly shaped branches and waxy flowers.
Forests and woodlands cover 16 percent of Nevada’s land area. Many of the lower mountain ranges, where rainfall is heavier than in the basins, have woodlands of piñon and juniper. They are low shrublike trees that are well adapted to semiarid conditions. The piñon pine is noted for its sweet edible nuts. The higher mountains of Nevada, where rainfall is heaviest, are densely forested. Ponderosa pine, also called western yellow pine, and Douglas fir grow on the higher mountain slopes, especially on those around Lake Tahoe. These forests also contain numerous small flowers and such shrubs as elderberry, currant, and snowbush. Near Lake Tahoe are some stands of sugar pine and lodgepole pine. The high peaks of some mountain ranges, such as Wheeler Peak and Mount Moriah in the Snake Range, reach above the timberline. Here there are a few small areas of mountain tundra. These meadowlike areas have short curled grasses and tiny wildflowers. "Nevada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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