Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Found in northeast Arizona, Canyon De Chelly National Monument has supported human habitation continuously for around 5000 years. It is managed by both the Navajo Nation and the National Park Service and encompasses about 40,000 acres (130 sq. miles). Native Navajo people call it "Tseyi" meaning "canyon". Early Pueblo people lived here apparently up until around 650 years ago in stunning cliff-side dwellings.

Today 40 Navajo families still live in the bottom of the Canyon. Visitors can only go to the bottom area if accompanied by a ranger or authorized Navajo guide. Check out the amazing 750ft. tall Spider Rock, a very important Navajo sacred site that can be seen easily from the 1000 ft. rim of the canyon. President Hoover designated it in 1931 for its obvious contribution to US and world heritage.

This area is approximately 5000 - 6000 ft., so you can see some excellent high-desert wildflowers here. Botanists have documented over 771 species in several different regions.

Among lower canyon cliffs and crevices, you can find plants and trees like Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus intricatus), Cliffrose (Purshia stansburiana), Narrowleaf Yucca (Yucca Angustissima), and Utah Serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis).

In the upper canyon rockfalls, you can find flora like Mockorange (Philadelphus microphyllus), Fendlerbush (Pen diera rupicola), Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii),

In the lower canyon rims and hills, you can find interesting species such as Snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), Saltbush (Atriplex spp.), Mormon Tea (Ephedra viridis) and various kinds of cactus.

As most desert parks, Canyon De Chelley suffers from non-native invasive species such as Russian Knapweed (Acroptilon repens), Cheat Grass (Bromus tectorum), and Sweetclover (Melilotus spp.). Soil compaction from heavy visitation also damages fragile plants and mycorrizal fungal colonies under the soil, which are are a critical part of desert ecosystems.


Desert Paintbrush

Desert Paintbrush is hemiparasitic on the roots of grasses and bushes and is in the Broomrape family. Paintbrush is a generalist hemiparasite, so it will use a variety of host plants but does tend to prefer some such as sagebrush. It draws nutrients and water from the host plant. In fact, it can photosynthesize and survive without a host plant, but usually does not do very well. It is not an aggressive parasite and does not usually kill the host plant, but can give other plants a competitive advantage. You will usually see them protruding through their host plants or growing from the perimeter of the host. As with many types of desert plants, Desert Paintbrush can concentrate selenium derived from desert alkaline soil types and can be potentially very dangerous if the green plant parts of roots are eaten. However, some Native Americans consumed the flowers.

Desert Paintbrush wildflower in the Mojave
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