What Grows In Vegas…

In Landscapes, Nature, Urban Exploration
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If you want Hallmark versions of roses and lush, dewy gardens, move to Southern California. If you enjoy your plant life with a little more fortitude – flowers that have better things to do than adorn greeting cards – the Las Vegas desert has the specimens you’re looking for.

If you live in Vegas, you know that our inhospitable summers are not designed to sustain life. But they do. Year after year, an impressive variety of rugged greenery thrives in conditions that can best be described as ‘hellish’. These are the thugs of the plant world, and they don’t care if they look good in your grandmother’s vase.

It’s easy to walk around downtown and find nice looking shrubs installed to dress up the local establishments. But to see the real, unconventional beauty of this terrain, look closely at the overgrown yards, the vacant lots and the untended nature trails. 

In these obscure corners of downtown, not far from the lights of Fremont Street, I attempted to capture a fragment of these flourishing worlds, populated with plant life both indomitable and elegant.

While I tried not to look creepy crouching in the bushes with a camera, these organisms commanded respect, displaying a toughness I envy. And while some of them might look dainty in a vase, don’t let their delicate bones fool you — if it sprouted up from our anemic soil, there’s nothing meek about it.

A very big ‘thank you’ to the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Masters Gardeners of Southern Nevada, and local resident Beth Hewitt for helping me identify these plants. 

A Mexican Palo Verde tree blooming just outside The D Hotel. 
The seed head of a dry weed in a vacant lot next to the Mob Museum

Green Fountain Grass in the empty lot by the Mob Museum, considered a noxious weed, is not permitted to be sold in local nurseries. 
A Pyracantha (Rosacea), one of the ornamental shrubs in the tourist-filled areas near the Fremont Street Experience.
A potted dwarf pomegranate adorns the entrance to the Fremont Street Experience.
Peach-hued oleander trees proliferate near the corner of St. Louis and 17th Street. Oleanders, while very popular for landscaping in the ’70s, have grown out of favor in recent times due to the fact that they are poisonous and unsafe for pets and children.
A brilliant Red Globe Mallow blossom, growing wild in an empty lot near 6th and Garces, shot to the sound of a homeless man yelling, “Heeeey girl! Take my picture!”
The sinister skeletons of prickly lettuce, taking over a yard in a house near Clark and 7th.
One of the Texas Ranger species in Heritage Park, which blooms in response to humidity.
An Apache Plume in Heritage Park, with a visitor.

A Tall Myrtle bush growing in Heritage Park.

8 Comments

  1. These are beautiful images and I love how much research you did on each plant.

  2. These images are absolutely stunning, and together conjure a whole new world of magical plants. Amazing!

  3. I think you should print and frame every last one of these! They each contain a world and you’ve rendered them so beautifully. Thanks!

    • Thank you very much! 😊 A few were printed out for a hotel lobby though I can’t remember where now…

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