Spanning across parts of Mongolia and China, the Gobi Desert makes up about 500,000 square miles of land, making it one of the largest deserts in the world. The climate of the Gobi Desert is generally very dry and windy, but parts of the region can get almost a foot of rainfall in a year. With these variations in climate, the Gobi Desert is host to a variety of plants.
The saxaul is one of the most plentiful plants in the Gobi Desert region, and in many parts of the desert it is the only plant that will grow. The saxaul is identified as being a large bush, or small tree with thick spongy bark that soaks in moisture for nourishment. The leaves of the saxaul are so small that the tree appears to have no leaves at all, and it produces small yellow blossoms. The saxaul tree has many uses in its habitat. For example, the bark can be pressed to extract water and as of the 2008 energy crisis in the region, the wood of the tree is used for warmth and fuel. It is also planted widely in Asia to fight against desertification brought on by climate change, and sand-riddled winds.
A parasitic plant, Cistanche deserticola--or cistanche for short, is found primarily in the Gobi Desert where it grows on the saxaul tree. It is a perennial herb that lacks chlorophyll, so its survival depends on how much nourishment the plant can get from its host. As of 2010, cistanche is an endangered family of herbs, due to its popularity in Asian pharmaceuticals. It is identified by its succulent-like appearance that varies in color from dull brown to vibrant green. It's smaller than the saxaul tree, reaching up to three feet tall.
A member of the allium family, Taana, or Allium polyrhizum, is a fragrant and delicate wild onion that grows in parts of the Gobi Desert. It is said to have a slight hazelnut flavor to it, and grazing animals tend to favor the plant as opposed to the assorted grasses that grow among it. Taana is widely used in culinary applications in Asia, to flavor such dishes as stir-fried rice and chow mein.
Other plants found in the Gobi Desert include various grasses, sage plants and weeds. Saltwort, an invasive weed found in the region, is often seen tumbling in the dust on windy days, and the caranga plant can be found near the rockier areas of the desert as well. Wormwood, a toxic herb that has applications in Chinese medicine, flourishes near dried out water pools in the salt-rich soil.