March 9, 2012 § 2 Comments
Desert Gold (Geraea canescens) and Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa) sway in the morning desert wind in California’s Death Valley National Park. Only once every 3-8 years do the flowers put on such a spectacular spring show; their timing is tied to the large amounts of rainfall brought by El Niño storms.
The high mountain ranges of southern California block the storms from the Pacific, creating the deserts. California contains parts of three deserts, the Great Basin of the north, the Mojave Desert, and the western Sonoran Desert, often called the Colorado Desert after the river that marks its eastern side.
Desert plants and animals are adapted to the dry habitats that result from inconsistent seasonal rainfall. After a wet winter, the deserts will be carpeted by annual wildflowers, some of which may have lived as seeds in the dry soil for decades. The perennial plants conserve water, or send their roots to great depths to find it, or simply shut down during the dry season.
Spring, of course, is the premier time to be in the desert. That’s when all that lives and was grey begins to blush with green, and when the cactus blooms. It’s when the normally drab as dishwater creosote bushes that stretch on for entire states at a time become enpixalated with tiny yellow flowers nestled amid new green leaves no larger than a bee’s wing. And most memorably, that’s when the seeds of annuals sprout throw rugs of purple, white, orange and yellow in washes, sandy bottom lands, and other places moist enough to germinate seeds deposited a year, a decade, even twenty-five years before.
Yellow brittlebush carpets the hills and grows around tall cacti and desert brush on Harquahala Mountain.
When will the desert wildflowers bloom?
2012 Desert Wildflowers Updates by State and Parks:
On March 2nd there were a few nice patches of poppies on the Sutherland Trail in Catalina State Park.