Gobi Desert – Home to the Rarest and Toughest Plants on Earth

Almost all plants must be adapted to severe temperatures and little to no moisture in order to live in the Gobi Desert. Many desert plants have evolved to take in carbon dioxide during the night rather than during the day, which is then stored and used for photosynthesis during the day. This prevents water loss throughout the day, when the temperature is higher due to the sun. Long roots to reach for more water, fewer leaves to preserve water, and many plants are deciduous are some of the structural adaptations of desert plants.

The Gobi's arid and frigid temperature renders it uninhabitable for most animals found elsewhere on the planet. The Gobi's environment, on the other hand, is home to a diverse range of plant species with unique survival strategies. The desert's plant life differs slightly from one place to the next. All of the plants, however, have one thing in common: an incredible ability to flourish with very little moisture.

The leaves produce enough food to last through the winter, and the leaves fall off in the winter, leaving the plant with fewer structures to sustain with the restricted supply of stored nutrients. In addition, most have exceptionally deep root systems to avoid being uprooted during the spring wind storm season. Many plants find it difficult to survive in the Gobi due to these conditions, which is why there is far less flora there than elsewhere.

The Saxaul tree

The Saxaul tree

The Saxaul tree (Haloxylon ammodendron) occupies one of the most significant niches in the Gobi Desert, as it is one of the few remaining water sources. The water reserves held underneath the saxual's bark to preserve it from dehydrating are one of its structural adaptations. In addition, the bark is porous and absorbs water readily. Because this plant is practically leafless and has extremely small leaves, it uses less water. This plant's complicated, lengthy root structure serves to retain soil in place, preventing sand drifts and erosion. This tree's roots can reach depths of up to 30 feet and are used in Chinese medicine.

The saxaul, unlike most Gobi plants, may grow up to 12 feet tall and is the only plant that can grow in all of the Gobi's ecoregions, mainly on rock outcrops and gravel. Water can be collected readily by squeezing the bark, and the wood can be used to light a fire, making it particularly valuable to animals and nomads trekking through the desert.

Saltwort (Salsola kali):


This plant is found primarily in the Gobi's Salt Desert region, where many other plants are unable to grow due to high salt concentrations in the soil. This plant looks like a weed and, because of its great salt tolerance, is good for growing in locations where there isn't much else to grow. The saltwort blooms from June to August and has adapted to the desert thanks to a taproot system that allows it to collect rainwater from the earth's surface while deeper roots help to maintain the plant. This plant is extremely invasive, and when its branches become disconnected, tumbleweed can emerge.

Wild Onion (Allium polyrhizum):

Wild Onion

These plants, also known as Taana, are a source of food for animals and humans traveling through the desert, and are believed to have a taste similar to hazelnuts. This onion prefers to grow in rocky, dry locations and is a perennial flowering plant that blooms in June and July. These plants are supposed to offer medicinal powers as well as provide springtime food for winter-starved cows. This plant's structural modifications include denser and more compact leaves to resist desiccation, as well as a smaller onion. They also have a fibrous outer layer that is grey or brown in color.

Tamarix shrubs

Tamarix shrubs

Tamarix shrubs (Tamarix arceuthoides): This little tree grows to be approximately 4 meters tall and is usually seen on riverbanks in the Gobi Desert. It's also known as the salt cedar or tamarisk, and it grows in clumps. It blooms from early summer to early autumn, producing little white or pink flowers. It, like the saltwort, is a salt-tolerant species, hence its natural habitats are the salt deserts of the Gobi's Junggar Basin. Its adaptability for severe environments has made it a difficult invasive species to eradicate in North America.

Hair moss (Nostoc flagelliforme):

Nostoc flagelliforme

is a cyanobacterium that is eaten as a vegetable in Chinese cuisine. It is also known as black moss, hair weed, or fat choy. It has grown prohibitively expensive because to the Chinese government's restriction on the amount that may be harvested, as it aids in the prevention of sandstorms during the windy season. It is regarded as a forerunner organism.



In the Gobi, low-growing types predominate, with many low bushes. Convolvulus and tamarix are two typical shrubs that thrive in cold climates with little water. The convolvulus, often known as bindweed, brightens up the environment with funnel-shaped flowers in pale pink or white. Its growth is lagging, reaching a maximum height of 2 feet and spreading horizontally. Tamarix, commonly known as salt cedar or tamarisk, grows in thickets. The tamarix is exceptionally salt-tolerant, in addition to its endurance for freezing temperatures and low moisture. Because of its resilience, it is one of the few plants that can live in the Junggar Basin's "salt deserts."

Herbs and Grasses

The grasses and herbs that flourish in the Gobi's harsh climate include bridle grass and needlegrass. Needlegrass is able to live thanks to its long, fibrous roots, which are particularly good at absorbing and keeping moisture. Field wormwood can also be found in the Gobi, mostly in the Alashan Plateau region to the southwest.