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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's coming! The Spring desert wildflower bloom

If you've found time from snoozing in the warm afternoon southwestern desert sun to follow the weather news, you've probably sent smirking emails back to your freezing friends in New England or the upper mid-west as they suffer through a winter of blizzards, slush, and ice. And you've probably also sent photos of yourself in sunglasses, shorts, and T-shirt while boasting of continuous 65-degree days one after the other. Nasty.

Hard to believe that it still is only mid January, and though the nights are dipping into the mid forties, the warm day time sun not only triggers our Spring genes, it also begins tickling the genes of Spring wildflowers.

Wait a minute. Wildflowers? In January? Well, not quite yet, but if the days continue warm and sunny the lower deserts along the Colorado River at the Parker Strip, the Yuma area, and south central Arizona around Organ Pipe Cactus NM, as well as the lower altitudes of Anza Borrego State Park in California will soon have wildflower leaves and stems poking up through the scree on sunny south-facing slopes and in sandy washes.

If combined with the accompaniment of adequate gentle winter rain, enough hours of daytime sun, and temperatures inching upward from cold, all orchestrate to invigorate the wildflowers to rise from their life of dormancy to bestow on us a riot of color as if Jackson Pollack had vigorously flung his paints across the desert floor.

Before you can say Happy Valentine’s Day, Arizona poppies, blue phacelia, sand verbena, brittle bush, desert sunflower, globemallow, lupine, and Canterbury bells will wave their colors at you as you pass by.
Look for the bravest wildflowers along the sides of washes where the most moisture collects, and on roadsides, where the Winter rains have flowed off the roads to collect and water the buried and unseen seeds. Sunny hillsides will also begin to sprout with new green shoots as will the base of rocks that retain warmth like a blanket covering the dormant plants about to awaken.

Visit your favorite bookstore and pick up a desert wildflower guide, and brochures from desert visitor centers. Anza Borrego SP and Joshua Tree NP also have wildflower hot lines that you can call to find out what is blooming now, and soon, and where.

If you can stick it out until April--when the temperatures start spiking into the 90s--you will see the cacti begin to bloom, with their impossibly bright, neon-like flowers, displaying their extravagant flashiness like the Lady Gagas of the desert.

Check out Bob Difley's Boondocking and Snowbird Guide eBooks at


  1. I was in Yuma,AZ in Spring of 05 and the wild
    flowers bloomed beautifully after a good rain.
    The green weeds by the roadside and the desert
    was ablaze with all types of wild flowers.
    The is God telling us he is alive and well!

  2. Last year in March we went to Carrizo Plain NM in California, and were treated to entire hillsides turned neon yellow and gold with acres or even square miles of blooming fields.