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A Comprehensive List of Desert Plants No One Ever Gave You Before

Desert Plants List
Have you ever wondered about the plants that grow in the desert? What are the different types of plants and their adaptations? Read this article on desert plants list and get to know about plants of the desert.
Marlene Alphonse
Last Updated: Jan 29, 2018
There are many types of plants that inhabit the Earth. In fact, almost one third of the Earth's surface is covered with forests. Plants even survive in deserts, which have extreme climates. The plants that grow in the desert are known as xerophytes. Plants in the desert have a different adaptive technique to match the climatic changes of the desert. There are different desert plants that adapt to the hard, rocky and dry soil of the desert. Contrary to a common misconception that only a few plants are able to survive the harsh climate, the desert is one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems on Earth, with many species of plants and animals co-existing.
List of Desert Plants
The common feature observed in desert vegetation is their outer appearance in terms of leaves, stalks and flowers etc. From a distance, the plant may appear to be dry, but on closer observation, one can notice that the plant is indeed surviving. Given below is a short, description about the different types of xerophytes along with their features
Cacti are the common plants found in deserts across the globe. In terms of its appearance the cactus is different from the rest of the plants, since they have differently formed stems and leaves. Unlike plants which have thick foliage and thin stems, the stems of this plant are thick and succulent. These plants are large in size and have an expandable stem that helps them to store water.
During the rains, water is absorbed by a large network of roots which is then stored in the ribbed, expandable stems. The leaves have been modified into thin spikes to reduce transpiration. The cactus plant has a long lifespan and grows very fast. Here are some of the species of the cactus plant.
  • Acuna Cactus
  • Barrel Cactus
  • Beavertail Cactus
  • Century Plant
  • Chain Fruit Cholla
  • Cholla Cactus
  • Claret Cup Cactus
  • Desert Christmas Cactus
  • Datil Yucca
  • Engelmann's Hedgehog Cactus
  • Fishhook Cactus
  • Mojave Yucca
  • Night-Blooming Cereus
  • Old Man Cactus
  • Organ Pipe Cactus
  • Prickly Pear Cactus
  • Saguaro Cactus
  • Senita Cactus
  • Soaptree Yucca
  • Thornber's Pincushion Cactus
  • Yellow-spined Hedgehog Cactus
Desert Plants
Apart from the cacti, which flourish in abundance in deserts, there are also some species of plants, which have adapted themselves to survive the aridity of the deserts. The plants have very few leaves, which may normally be thin, to prevent evaporation of water. Though deserts normally do not have trees, a few of them, which have the ability to survive the harsh temperature changes, can be seen growing in the dirt. Here is a list of plants, shrubs and trees, which grow in deserts.
  • Bastard Toadflax
  • Crucifixion Thorn
  • California Fan Palm
  • Cocklebur
  • Cottonwood
  • Creosote Bush
  • Desert Saltgrass
  • Desert Willow Elephant Tree
  • Four-Wing Saltbush
  • Greasewood
  • Joshua Tree
  • Juniper
  • Mesquites
  • Mormon Tea
  • Ocotillo
  • Palo Verde Tree
  • Poison Ivy
  • Ponderosa Pine
  • Saxaul
  • Showy Milkweed
  • Smoke Tree
  • Stinging Nettles
  • Tumbleweed
  • Whitethorn Acacia
  • Winterfat
Deserts also have a plethora of wildflowers, with their attractive hues. Most of these species of wildflowers are perennial, i.e. they produce flowers all round the year. These plants reproduce using the method of pollination. The desert transforms into a spectacular display of color in the spring, when the flowers are in full bloom. Mentioned below are some wildflower species, growing in the hard, rocky and sandy soil of the deserts.
  • Alkali mariposa lily
  • Apache Plume
  • Arizona Poppy
  • Asian Mustard
  • Blue Phacelia
  • Big Sagebrush
  • Booth's Sun Cup
  • Brittlebush
  • Brown-Eyed Evening Primrose
  • Broad-leaf aliciella
  • California Buckeye
  • Cave Primrose
  • Checker fiddleneck
  • Chia
  • Chuparosa
  • Cliffrose
  • Cooper's dogweed
  • Datura
  • Desert Chicory
  • Desert Dandelion
  • Desert Five-Spot
  • Desert Globemallow
  • Desert Lily
  • Desert Lupine
  • Desert Mariposa Lily
  • Desert Marigold
  • Desert Paintbrush
  • Desert Pincushion
  • Desert poppy
  • Desert Star-Vine
  • Desert Sunflower
  • Devil's lettuce
  • Dogbane
  • Devil's Claw
  • Dune Evening Primrose
  • Fairy Duster
  • Fiddleneck
  • Freckled milkvetch
  • Filaree Storksbill
  • Fringed Amaranth
  • Fringed Onion
  • Ghost Flower
  • Gravel ghost
  • Hop Sage
  • Layne Locoweed
  • Lobeleaf Groundsel
  • Mojave Aster
  • Nevada onion
  • Panamint mariposa lily
  • Mojave Prickly Poppy
  • Parry's nolina
  • Plummer's mariposa lily
  • Popcorn Flower
  • Prince's rock cress
  • Prickly Poppies
  • Rattleweed
  • Rock cress
  • Rush milkweed
  • Sand Verbena
  • Scale bud
  • Showy Four O'Clock
  • Skeleton Milkweed
  • Spanish Needles
  • Western Wallflower
  • White bear poppy
  • Winding Mariposa Lily
  • Woolly Daisy
  • Woody bottle washer
  • Yellow cups
  • Yellow Beeplant
  • Yerba mansa
Adaptation Techniques
The plants growing in one desert may differ from those of the other. But the one single characteristic that is common in the life of xerophytes is the adaptation of these plants, in order to thrive in the extreme weather changes.
Given below are a few adaptation techniques in the flora of the deserts,
  • The plants in the desert have no leaves or rather they have modified leaves, resembling thorns, to reduce the loss of moisture from the surface of the leaves.
  • Many plants like the cactus have thick and succulent stems with a pulpy interior to store water.
  • Some plants have a stunted growth to reduce the loss of water and conserve food and nutrients.
  • There are fine hair like structures on the stems of plants like cacti to reduce the loss of water through the process of evaporation.
  • Some plants like Living Stone only expose a few leaves to the surface while the rest of the plant is underground.
  • Many of the plants begin their growth as seeds, as seeds tend to survive without water. Only when it rains in the desert, these seeds sprout and produce tiny saplings. But these do not survive for long as many of the plants sprout, mature, produce flowers and then perish.
You can even grow a variety of desert plants as ornaments in your garden or in pots. This will improve the visual appeal of your home.
Different Types Of Cactus Plants
Sand Verbena Flowers
Barrel Cactus Plants