Native and Adapted Plants for Utah Landscapes
The Intermountain West is generally a very arid region, with rainfalls ranging from just a few inches in the driest areas of the Great Basin to upwards of 30 inches in the higher elevations of the northern Rockies. This a region endowed with scares and scattered resources, where all life (plant, animal, and people) is attuned to water and balanced with one another. The diversity of plants adapted to the arid conditions in particular were at times critical for human survival. In addition to being sources of food, medicine, and implements, native people used plants to suppress hunger and reduce fertility and population growth in times of extreme drought.
Water redirection and food import now support urban numbers in the Intermountain West far beyond that facilitated by existing resources.The rugged arid beauty of the Intermountain West that is attracting so many people has been squeezed dry. Large-scale water development is a thing of the past. Future population growth in the Intermountain West will depend on using existing water supplies more efficiently. Through out the West, 40 to 60% of all urban water use goes to landscapes. Much of the water is applied in excess of plant water needs. However, even an effectively irrigated lawn requires substantial water ( 60 to 80% of the amount of water that would evaporate from a pan of water).We will continue to have lawns in the Intermountain West. A lot of the area currently covered with turfgrass, such as front lawns, parking stripes, and other little used or viewed areas, could be replaced with drought-adapted plants that yield beauty with little water.
This site provides information on plants for low water use landscapes. Most are native to the Intermountain West or shortgrass prairie, but not all. There are many delightful plants well-suited for in low water-use landscapes that originated in similar climates elsewhere in the world. However, focusing on natives for low water-use landscapes is common sense. These plants are already adapted to the summer drought characteristics of the West. Beyond that using natives also honors the environment in which we live. Which in turn diminishes the adversarial relationship with the desert that most of our existing landscapes represent.
Many of the were used for a variety of purposes by the indigenes people here. Where applicable, a brief description of the uses are included. Also in the description is a note on propagation of the plant, and management consideration.
This site is just our take on a very large body of knowledge. We want to make this knowledge as dynamic as possible. So, we encourage you to add to our site. If you have further information about any of the plants on this site, please, email us and we will try to add it to the description, or contribute it to our Water-efficient Landscaping discussion group. The discussion group can prove to be a valuable archive of information regarding drought. If you have a better picture of a plant you can send it to us as a print, or even better as a email attachment.