Plants and Vegetation in the Gobi Desert

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Plants and Vegetation in the Gobi Desert
The Gobi Desert is a cold desert in Asia. (Ashok Sinha/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Despite being the second largest desert in the world at 500,000 square miles, the Gobi Desert features relatively few species of vegetation. The Gobi Desert spans across Northern China and Southern Mongolia. The landscape of the desert consists of sandy soil as well as areas with small stones known as gobi. While the desert is a cold desert, precipitation still falls here less often than other places, with less than 10 inches of snow or other precipitation per year. Because of the soil environment and lack of extensive precipitation, plants must adapt accordingly.

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Saxaul Tree

The saxaul tree (Haloxylon ammodendron) grows natively in arid regions of Central Asia and has an alternative spelling of saksaul. In the Gobi Desert, saxaul trees make up an important part of the ecosystem. According to the website Gobi Desert, the saxaul tree provides water to animals by collecting precipitation in reserves beneath its bark. The bark can be squeezed to drain water from it. Saxaul trees reach 3 to 16 feet tall when fully grown. The Interactive Agricultural Ecological Atlas of Russia and Neighboring Countries website notes that saxaul trees are harvested and used for fuel within desert areas. Sheep and camels graze on the trees when passing through the desert. The small pale flowers on the saxaul tree bloom in April, while dark-green fruits appear in September.

Wild Onion

Known scientifically as Allium altaicum Pallas, wild onion may also be commonly referred to as stone onion, altai onion or tatarka. Wild onions natively grow within areas of Asia, such as Siberia, Mongolia and China, including the Gobi Desert. Wild onion prefers growing in dry, rocky areas and is a perennial plant. In June and July, wild onion plants blossom. The fruiting period overlaps this some, with fruit appearing in July and August. Wildlife within the Gobi Desert eats wild onion plants. The website Gobi Desert notes that humans who eat the onion bulbs claim that it tastes like hazelnut.

Saltwort

Salsola kali may be known commonly as saltwort, Russian thistle and tumbleweed, according to the USDA Forest Service. Saltwort grows within arid and semi-arid regions throughout the world but began natively in Eurasia. The plant earns its name from the fact that it is incredibly tolerant of salt. Because of this, according to the website Gobi Desert, saltwort plants survive in the Salt Desert region of the Gobi Desert where few other plants are able to grow. Saltwort plants feature a taproot system that gathers moisture from the surface of the earth, while a deeper set of lateral roots gives the plant stability. Small flowers appear on the saltwort from June until August.

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