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Desert Diary
Plants/Location, Location, Location


A familiar cry of real estate salespeople is "Location, location, location", for they are well aware that where a property is makes all the difference in the world for the ease of sale. Ecologists might equally well take up the slogan, for the whole ecological scene can change, and even reverse, from one place to another.

In many parts of the East, sandy soils of old beach lines tend to support plants adapted to more arid conditions than nearby, heavier soils. The larger particles that make up sand allow water to percolate downward more rapidly than do the fine silts and clays of other areas—more quickly lost to questing roots of plants. In contrast, the opposite tends to be true in desert areas. Stabilized areas of sand often support a richer vegetation than surrounding areas of hardpan. In sand, the sparse precipitation of the desert climate sinks in, while in dry, heavier soils, a hard rain runs off and is lost, while water from a light rain lingers near the surface and soon evaporates.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

sand sagebrush

Sand Sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia), almost entirely limited to areas of sand. Photograph by A.H. Harris.