Root systems of some Chihuahuan Desert plants

TitleRoot systems of some Chihuahuan Desert plants
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsGibbens, Robert P., Lenz J.M.
Conference NameAnnual Meeting, Society for Range Management
Date Published1992
KeywordsChihuahuan Desert plants, descriptions, root systems
AbstractRoot systems of shrubs, grasses and forbs were excavated in plant communities occurring on relatively deep, fine sandy and day loam soils on the Jornada Experimental Range in southern New Mexico. Root systems of grasses extended to depths of about 1 in and did not penetrate far into the well developed calcic horizons. Perennial forb root systems extended to depths of 1.6 m and were well developed in calcic layers. Shrub root systems, including tarbush (Flourensiacernua DC), fourwing saltbush [Atriplex canescens (Pursh) Nutt.], wolfberry (Lycium berlandieri Dunal), and winterfat [Ceratoides lanata (Pursh) J.T.Howell], besides extending laterally 1 to 5 m, grew through the calcic horizons and extended to depths of 3 to >5 m. Roots of crucifixion thorn (Koeberlinia spinosa Zucc.) penetrated >S m but the unusual feature was large roots branching off at a depth of 3.5 m and growing vertically or obliquely upward before branching extensively between depths of .8 to .1 m. The extensive root systems of shrubs is one reason they have been so successful in this desert environment.