diverse landscapes of Utah result in a wide variety of environmental
conditions in which plants may become established. This entry briefly
describes the habitats and major plant communities that may be encountered
in traveling from the upper mountain peaks to the lower desert valleys.
In addition, brief descriptions are provided of selected, common plant
species in each habitat.
TIMBERLINE The climate of the mountain peaks of the Uinta Mountains and the Wasatch Mountains is characterized by relative dryness, abundant
sunlight, and rapidly changing temperature. A few plants are found above
timberline on the very highest peaks, such as Kings Peak (13,538 feet), Mount Timpanogos (11,750 feet), and Mount Nebo (11,871 feet). Timberline
begins at about 11,500 feet above sea level. In general, the soils are
shallow and the growing season short. In order to survive, plants growing
above timberline must grow vigorously and produce viable seeds in a
short time. Many of the plants above timberline have beautifully colored,
dwarf, highly fragrant flowers, and the time of flowering varies among
the different species. Above-timberline plants include forget-me-nots--the
only known blue flower encountered above timberline; cushions of pinkish-purple
moss campions; alpine avens--largest white-flower, mat-forming plant
found here; bistorts--a slender swaying plant with upright spikes of
white flowers that look like tufts of cotton from a distance; pale yellow
or rose-purple Indian paintbrush; harebells--single dark blue, funnel-shaped
flowers; mat-forming mountain dryads with eight-petaled, creamy-white
flowers and scalloped leathery leaves on a woody stem; alpine willow--dwarfed,
rarely growing over 2 dms (8 inches) high.