Yellowstone National Park has distinctive microclimates that are created by the geothermal hot springs, thermal features and fumaroles. Yellowstone is the only area on earth that is home to the sand verbena, sulfur wild buckwheat and Ross’ bentgrass.
Most visitors to Yellowstone rarely witness the beauty of these rare, unique plants. Important for the park’s environment, these plant species only grow in certain areas of the park.
Unknown to most people, Yellowstone is home to at least 1,300 species of vegetation. Scientists are still amazed that after such dramatic cataclysmic changes and lava flows that so many hardy plants were able to repopulate such a desolate landscape. This number also includes hundreds of wildflowers, 218 non-native species and seven species of conifers.
Scientists do not understand why these plants are here, which makes them more interesting. Unlike animals that are always on the move, plants stay put, which makes it easier for scientists to find and locate these rare species.
For example, the sand verbena is so rare that it only grows in a single 1.5-acre area along the shores of Yellowstone Lake. Thriving in warm soil, this plant loves the thermal environment in this small area. Ross’s bentgrass is only a mere few inches tall and prefers the areas around the Shoshone Geyser Basin, specifically along the Firehole River drainage. This plant prefers “vapor dominated sites”, such as the cracks in thermal areas near the hot springs, as it requires just the right amount of moisture and warmth to create a natural greenhouse.
Sulfur buckwheat prefers the geyser basins along the West Entrance of the park. It is still up for debate about the specific varieties and how they differ from other wild sulfur buckwheats in the region.
The whitebark pine is an important food sources for grizzly bears and help control erosion. Additionally, it is resistant to the mountain pine beetle. Scientists are still studying how this pine can help, especially after wildland fires.
Yellowstone Holiday is a West Yellowstone RV park that offers 36 RV sites with full hookups, which includes electricity 20/30/50 amp, water and sewer). They are open May 15 through September 30, so visitors to the area should consider booking their stays early.
Located on the shores of Lake Hebgen, they also offer Hebgen Lake cabins, which includes four different types and styles of cabins, which are ideal for couples or families.