At the southern end of the Eureka Valley stand the tallest dunes in the State, rising 210 meters (700 feet) above the valley floor, the dry bed of a Pleistocene lake.
The vegetation at the base of the dunes is a typical creosote bush scrub. Unique in the scrub is the desert plume,
Stanleya pinnata ssp. inyoensis. On the dunes are two rare plants, a dune primrose,
Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis, and a grass, Swallenia
alexandrae. The latter is known only from this, the major colony, and two other minor colonies several kilometers
Swallenia is unique in its ability to stabilize the sand, growing on steep slopes where no other plants exist. It is a monotypic genus which probably originated here recently. Time and lack of suitable habitats account for its very limited range.
These dunes, modified barkhans and star dunes, face the prevailing storms and catch snow and rain. There being no runoff, the moisture percolates downward, providing water for the grass and other plants.
Integrity: Off-road vehicles are damaging the Swallenia. It has been proposed that this area be made a part of
Death Valley National Monument.
Use: Research, educational, observational.
Inventory of California Natural Areas
Revision © 2005 Steven Louis Hartman