Tufa along the shore of Mono Lake with bright green marsh vegetation in the foreground.

2: Plants of the Mono Basin

Can you find these three common plants of the Mono Basin?

Rubber Rabbitbrush: Known for its bright green color and vibrant yellow flowers in late summer, this shrub dominates the area. As you walk down the path, look to your left and notice the spread of rabbitbrush. As the lake level dropped, this pioneer shrub came in, thriving in the salty, alkaline soil.

Big Sagebrush: There’s nothing quite like the smell of sagebrush after a summer storm in the basin. This shrub is one of the most abundant in North America, and it’s upward pointing hairy leaves allow it to effectively hold water in this harsh environment. Look for its gray-green leaves and brush your hand over the plant to release its delicious smell.

Caterpillar Greasewood: This woody shrub has an unusual name due to its red flowers, which look like caterpillars when in bloom. Greasewood roots extend down as far as 50 feet, so it is an indicator of underground freshwater springs.

Stop at the first short spur trail on the left where there is a large tufa tower near the trail. If you’ve reached the wooden boardwalk, you’ve gone too far.

Top photo by Sandra Noll.