Land and Water

Pygmy Rabbits

Pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) are the smallest members of the rabbit family in North America and are found in the sagebrush communities of the Great Basin in parts of California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, with the greatest portion of their range in Nevada. Despite this expansive area, their specialized habitat requirements limit them to sites with deep, friable soil that will support structurally dense sagebrush stands.

Purple Sage

Found in many of the Western state deserts, the purple sage grows well throughout the Great Basin, particularly in Southern Nevada. There are three primary varieties of purple sage found in Nevada: the carnosa, argentea and dorrii, the primary variation being in leaf size and location. The purple sage is a perennial shrub that was used as both a food source and a medicinal plant by the native peoples of Nevada, the Paiute, Washoe and Western Shoshone Indians.


Pronghorns (Antilocapra americana) are one of the few living links to the Ice Age. They are an ancient species dating back about 20 million years and are the lone survivors of a family of hoofed mammals found only in North America (Antilocapridae).

Pinyon-juniper Woodlands

Pinyon-juniper woodlands comprise one of Nevada's most extensive vegetation types, occupying 14,178 square miles, or approximately thirteen percent, of the state's land area. From Nevada's main highways, these woodlands appear as tree-covered hill slopes on distant mountain ranges.

Pinyon Jays and Pinyon Pines

In a dry woodland a high-pitched, nasal call is heard in the distance, then another and another. As the calls become louder and more numerous, birds that look like small, stocky, blue crows appear, streaming past in a loose flock of dozens or even hundreds. These are Pinyon Jays (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus), gregarious birds found throughout most of the state in pinyon-juniper woodlands and known for their close connection to pinyon pines.

Nevada's Physical Setting

Nevada lies almost entirely within the Basin and Range physiographic province. This vast area covers about 300,000 square miles and is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains on the west, the Columbia Plateau on the north, and the Colorado Plateau and Wasatch Front of the Rocky Mountains on the east. South of Nevada, the Basin and Range province extends into Mexico and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

Nevada Vegetation Overview

Nevada's unique geography and rugged topography have given rise to a diversity of vegetation types. Great Basin vegetation occupies the northern part of the state, a region of high, sagebrush-dominated valleys and numerous mountain ranges. Mojave Desert vegetation dominates the southern part, with the boundary between these two main ecological zones occurring roughly between Goldfield and Beatty.

Mountain Shrub Communities

Most mountain ranges of the northern hemisphere grade in elevation from one forest type to another in a steady progression from less cold-hardy to more cold-hardy trees, eventually giving way to alpine tundra where trees can no longer survive the extremely cold temperatures. The Great Basin mountain ranges of Nevada provide a notable exception to this rule. In most of these ranges there is no continuous forest zone above the pinyon-juniper woodland.

Monarch Butterflies of Nevada

Almost everyone knows the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). The adults are large with wings colored a deep orange with black borders containing white spots; the caterpillars are pale green and ringed with black and yellow. It is the one butterfly that almost everybody recognizes by sight, and many people have watched it develop from egg to adult in school science classes. Given ample milkweed to feed on, the caterpillars develop from egg to pupa in about three weeks and emerge as adults about ten days after that.

Utah Juniper

Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) occurs in every county of the state, and it covers more acreage in Nevada than any other tree. It is extremely adaptable, occurring in low valleys as well as in high-elevation mountain shrub communities, ranging in elevation from 2000 to 8000 feet. Utah juniper is distributed over at least 200 mountain ranges and is absent only in the northernmost mountain ranges of the state.


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