10 Cool Nevada Native Plants

What did I do on my recent trip to Las Vegas? I took a hike in search for Nevada native plants, of course! 😉

This past September, I spent a gorgeous afternoon hiking at Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert. This unique public land is a National Conservation Area only 30 minutes from the casinos!

Be sure to get my Nevada Native Plants Checklist to print out and take with you on your next visit to Red Rock Canyon or another Nevada park. You can check off the plants as you spot them!

Calico Tanks trail at Red Rock Canyon
I explored the Calico Tanks trail at Red Rock Canyon with a guide and another traveler.

National and state parks are a great place to learn about new native plant species while you are traveling. Red Rock Canyon features the unique Joshua Tree and Purple Sage (Saliva dorrii), as well as a variety of interesting types of plants that thrive in the hot dry summers of our country’s driest state!

Native trees and shrubs of Red Rock Canyon
Recent rains had brought a wave of colorful blooms to the desert!

10 Cool Nevada Native Plants

Here are some of the local natives I spotted on my hike. While these were growing in the wild, some of these desert-friendly plants may be the perfect addition to a home garden in the Las Vegas area.

A native Nevada garden is a great way to provide a sense of place (much more so than a green grass lawn in a desert climate!). These hardy plants will also help you conserve water, provide erosion control, and create a much needed wildlife habitat in the midst of the suburbs. 

1) Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)

Desert Willow is one of the prettiest native trees around thanks to its pink trumpet-shaped flowers. It is known for these showy blooms that can be found on the tree periodically between spring and fall.

nevada native tree
Orchid-like bloom of the Desert Willow tree

Because it thrives in full sun and less water, it is well adapted to the arid conditions of the deserts of southern Nevada. However, it is also native to many parts of the Southwest, including Texas! I saw a lot of these in bloom around San Antonio this summer in the midst of our record-breaking drought. 

2) Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata):

This native perennial wildflower features bright yellow blooms on thin, wispy stems. It is native to the deserts of the American Southwest, and provides an important food source for bees and other pollinators. This would be the perfect plant for a Nevada pollinator garden!

Desert Marigold flowers in Nevada
Desert Marigold – pretty Nevada wildflowers

3) Sticky Snakeweed (Gutierrezia microcephala):

Sticky Snakeweed is a low-growing, pretty plant with small aromatic yellow flowers. It is found in well-drained, rocky soils of Nevada’s desert regions and is known for its resinous, sticky leaves.

Sticky Snakeweed native Nevada plants
Yellow Sticky Snakeweed is such a pretty Nevada native plant, despite its not-so-attractive name!

4) Sonoran Scrub Oak (Quercus turbinella):

The Sonoran scrub oak is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to southern Nevada’s deserts and lower mountain regions. Oaks are some of the best wildlife plants around, and the Sonoran Scrub Oak provides important habitat and food for wildlife in the desert.

Sonoran Scrub Oak plants native to Las Vegas
Acorn caps on the Sonoran Scrub Oak tree.

5) Pointleaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens):

Pointleaf Manzanita is an evergreen shrub with distinctive shiny red bark and light pink flowers in early to late spring. It produces small berries which feed birds and small mammals, while pollinators are drawn to its nectar-rich flowers.

Pointleaf Manzanita native nevada plants
The unique red bark of the Pointleaf Manzanita shrub.

6) Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata):

Creosote Bush is a hardy desert plant known for its pungent aroma after a rain. It is an evergreen shrub that often dominates the desert landscape. It provides important shelter and food for wildlife.

Creosote Bush - Las Vegas Native Plants
Yellow blooms and fluffy seed heads of the Cresote Bush

7) Paper Bag Bush (Salazaria mexicana):

This was one of the coolest native species that I spotted on the hike! Paper Bag Bush is a small shrub with papery seed pods that cover the plant. These little bags are blown by the wind, helping them disperse their seeds. How cool!

Paper Bag Bush
Paper Bag bush was definitely the most unique looking plant spotted on my hike!

8) Stansbury’s Cliffrose (Purshia stansburiana):

Stansbury’s Cliffrose is a woody shrub that features fragrant, white to pale yellow flowers. The flowers reminded me of the blooms on strawberry plants. It can be found in higher elevations from southern to northern Nevada.

Stansbury Cliffrose Nevada Flowers
It is amazing that a tough desert plant can have such delicate blooms!

9) Pancake Prickly Pear (Opuntia chlorotica):

Prickly Pear species are found throughout the United States. However Pancake Prickly Pear is unique to a few Southwestern states. This species of prickly pear cactus is notable for its flat, pancake-like pads. I think a Prickly Pear would be a great sculptural addition to a Nevada native garden!

Nevada Desert Plants - Pancake Prickly Pear
The flat pads and bright pink tunas of the Pancake Prickly Pear cactus.

10) Green Ephedra (Ephedra viridis):

Green ephedra, also known by the common name Mormon Tea, is a low-growing, drought-tolerant plant with small green stems and tiny, cone-like structures that produce seeds. It was used medicinally by indigenous people.

Mormon Tea - native Nevada plants

I hope you enjoyed seeing these 10 native Nevada plants from my hike. I sure enjoyed photographing and researching them!

The next time you need a break from the typical Las Vegas areas, head to Red Rock Canyon and spend the day exploring the native flora of Southern Nevada!

Calico Tanks hike Red Rock Canyon

Want to learn more about Nevada native plants? Check out the Nevada Native Plant Society and this Native Plants of Southern Nevada field book.

Get this Nevada native plant checklist to take to Banff!

You can get this handy photo checklist to download and bring with you on your next Nevada hike. It includes a photo, common name, and scientific name of 20 Nevada native plants.

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