Yucca Plant at White Sands


Not much survives in the white gypsum sand dunes at White Sands National Monument. Somehow a few hearty plants manage to establish a foothold and keep from being buried as the sand advances. They do this by continually growing upwards as the sand slowly buries their lower parts. Those that don't grow fast enough are completely buried and die. Those that win the race, like our noble specimen here, end up with a deep and extended root system and manage to stay alive despite the harsh conditions. Sometimes, the sand receeds around plants like this, but their root system often keeps the surrounding sand in place, forming large mounds upon which they sit waiting for the next wave of sand to be pushed by.

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Last modified: 12 March 1997, Karp@virginia.edu