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Lassen Volcanic National Park

At considerable distance from the stateís major population centers, Lassen Volcanic National Parkís 106,000 acres include forests and meadows, as well as volcanic cones and lava flows of recent origin. Lassen Peak is a relatively new volcano that erupted in 1914, blew an enormous mushroom cloud of ash 7 miles high in 1915, and had minor activity until 1921. Although Lassen Peak towers 2,000 feet over the surrounding landscape, it is just a vent on the side of the much larger, ancient, and now collapsed volcano called Mount Tehama. The areaís ongoing geothermal activity is readily apparent: mud pots (potholes) bubble, fumaroles (vents) steam, and sulphurous hot springs boil. All four types of volcanoes in the world are found at Lassen.

As a consequence of the Lassen Peak eruption, some places in the park now have sparse herbaceous (nonwoody) growth, but eight species of conifers grow here. If, as expected, competition between tree species increases over time, only half of the species will survive.

Although the parkís elevation range is relatively small (5,200 feet at its lowest, 10,457 feet atop Lassen Peak) and the park itself is not very large, the species list here includes well over 700 plants (nearby Mount Shasta lists fewer than 500 species). Location accounts for the abundance and diversity of Lassenís species. As the southernmost mountain of the Cascades, Lassen is the northernmost limit for a number of plants common in the Sierra Nevada, and its proximity to the Great Basin adds other species to the mix. The resultant wildlife is a combination of Cascade, Sierra Nevada, and Great Basin species.

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