Desolation Wilderness Plant Life

Desolation Wilderness supports predominantly red fir and lodgepole pine forests with associated species such as Jeffrey pine, mountain hemlock, western juniper, and western white pine. Most forested areas occur between 7,400 - 9,000 foot elevations, becoming patchy to rare at higher elevations. These hardy trees take root in excessively rocky and often nutrient-poor soils. As much of the ground surface in Desolation is bedrock granite, soils are limited. Decomposed granite accumulations are often shallow deposits within glacially scoured basins. The most extensive forested areas are found on moist soils bordering lakes, streams, and meadows. The limited tree cover in Desolation is valuable for watershed protection, wildlife habitat, and esthetics.

The sparse woodlands of widely scattered western junipers and lodgepole pines are interrupted by patches of montaine chaparral species such as pinemat manzanita, huckleberry oak, and mountain pride penstemon clinging to the expanses of barren rock. There are many wet meadows throughout the wilderness, each unique due to the differences in elevation, exposure, soil composition and soil depth, resulting in a wide diversity of annual and perennial plant life. A variety of wildflower species, sedges, and grasses inhabit these fragile wet areas. Aspen and willow are common to these wetland areas.