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Death Valley in Bloom

While Death Valley shamelessly exposes its geology, it is coy in revealing its flora, both thanks to its average of 2 inches (5 cm) of rainfall per year. Death Valley is a land of extremes. In December the air temperature can be 85 degrees F. (29 degrees C.) at Badwater which is about 280 feet (85 meters) below sea level. And yet 20 miles (32 km) away, Telescope Peak, at 11,049 feet (3368 meters) above sea level – the park’s highest point can be buffeted by a snowy gale. In fact, Death Valley is the lowest, hottest, and driest place in North America.

In spite of this dryness, this park is home to 1,000 species of plants, including 23 species that grow nowhere else. A couple of factors work in Death Valley’s favor concerning plant diversity. First is its wide range of elevations, which makes it appealing to a wide range of plant types. That Badwater to Telescope Peak elevational change is twice the elevation change of the Grand Canyon. The other factor is that the park is so huge. At 3.3 million acres (about 1.3 million hectares), it is 1-½ times the size of the state of Delaware.

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