Eureka Valley sand dunes

From the Verge of Extinction To An Ecosystem Saved: A Botanist’s Story

About a half decade ago I was introduced to two very rare plants found only in a few sandy spots in the northwest corner of Death Valley National Park. After driving all day, my team was at the base of what are believed to be the tallest sand dunes in North America. The dunes appeared ominous, endless, yet inviting.

It was late May and unbelievably cold. The average temperature at that time of year is usually pushing 100 degrees in the afternoon, but on this day we were bundled up in sweaters and rain jackets. We even saw snow flurries in the northern part of the valley while driving in. Snow in May in Death Valley? Definitely the land of extremes!

The wind was blowing harshly across the dunes as we trekked out in search of the Eureka dune grass (Swallenia alexandrae) and the Eureka Valley evening primrose (Oenothera californica subspecies eurekensis). These two species are not only limited to California, but they’re Eureka Valley endemics—meaning they’re only found in a few sections of Eureka Valley and nowhere else on the planet.  (more…)