Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Desert Super Bloom (& Wednesday Vignette)

Approximately once every 10 years, the deserts of Southern California experience a "super bloom" when they receive enough rain during the winter months to carpet the normally hard-baked ground in flowers.  Last week I joined 2 friends for the long drive to Borrego Springs in northeast San Diego County to catch this year's show before soaring temperatures bring the curtain down.  The trip south on the freeways was made easier by my friends' express pass but, when we turned further inland, it was far slower going on a one-lane highway, which slowed still more as we wended our way along the final leg of our journey along a steep, winding road into the 600,000 acre desert state park.

Because the drive was so long, we didn't have hours to hike trails into the desert so we caught only a small portion of the wildflowers.  A more thorough exploration probably would have required at least an overnight stay.  Temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90sF also limited our exploration but here are some of the highlights:

Scene near the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park's Visitor Center

The majority of the blue, white and yellow flowers in this area were clustered around cactus or, as here, skeletons of cactus

My guess is that the cactus skeleton shown above was what was left of what I think is a Teddy Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii), which, both dead and alive, were plentiful in the area

If I've identified the yellow, white and blue blooms correctly they are Desert Dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata), Desert Pincushion (Chaenactis steviodes) and Blue Phacelia (Phacelia distans)

This shrub, which I think is Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), was also prevalent

As were these shrubs, Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) and what I tentatively identified as Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi)

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) could also be seen everywhere but they appeared to be just starting their bloom cycle


Concerned about how much longer our trip home might take on SoCal's famously congested freeways if we didn't get a lead on rush-hour traffic, we had to turn around and head home all too soon.   We tried to capture snaps of the California poppies and lupines as we whizzed along the highway but there was nowhere to pull over.


There were lupines here and there in Borrego Springs but nothing like this mass of purple we saw from the highway

Masses of orange poppies could also be seen as we whizzed along Highway 15


Near Lake Elsinore in western Riverside County, we finally pulled off the road to take another flurry of photos of California's official state flower in all its glory.

Massive traffic jams were reported in this area over the past 2 weeks and, even in late afternoon mid-week, it was hard to find a spot to park.  I'm offering this photo of the area near Walker's Canyon as my Wednesday Vignette - for more photo vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

Once again, we didn't have the time to hike far but we got our fix of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) anyway


If you're interested some of the wildflowers we missed, additional photos can be found here and here.


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party



32 comments:

  1. Magnificent! That must have been a fun (yet quick) trip. I wonder what our Columbia river gorge is looking like right now. Probably very green, maybe not so colorful yet, as it's till quite cool here.

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    1. It would have been better still if we'd had a helicopter or a Star Trek-style teleportation device to get us to our destination and back.

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  2. Hi Kris, I am so happy for you that you got to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to see the super bloom, even though it was only for a short time.
    I have seen gorgeous display of blue wild lupines and California poppies here, too. The rain this winter made such an incredible difference!
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. We've got lupine growing along our main road but no massive displays of California poppies locally. I keep trying - and failing - to establish wild lupine in my own garden but at least I have some California poppies this year!

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  3. Wow, what an explosion of bloom. Sounds like you had a good time exploring this treasure.

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  4. So glad you made the trek and shared your photos of this amazing event. I'm afraid that bad reports of traffic and heat might have deterred me.....Very beautiful.

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    1. I was frankly a little surprised at just how hot it already was out there, Tim - the cooler temperatures we enjoyed this winter almost made us forget how miserable that kind of heat can be. As to the traffic, that's a fact of life in SoCal.

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  5. Wonderful to see your poppies having a good year.

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    1. That explosion of orange is incredible!

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  6. Lovely. CA wild flowers are so delicate.

    I heard stories about the traffic out there--you are braver than I!

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    1. If I'd had to do the driving, I doubt I'd have made the trip. Luckily, I got to sit in the back and enjoy the view. It was a looong drive, though.

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  7. oh Kris thank you for showing us nature at its most artistic. This is a phenomenon I would love to see just once. A pity that your journey was so arduous, and probably tiring as well. The pictures you took will give you pleasure for a long time.

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    1. I wish we'd had the time to hike "off road" to see more of the display, Joanna. I hope I get a chance to see more if/when the next super bloom occurs.

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  8. What a fantastic adventure! Would love to see the desert in full bloom - what a marvelous sight! So glad you got to go, even if it was short. And, thanks for the report - I enjoyed it very much!

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    1. It was such a contrast to our normally dry brown hills and dusty desert valleys!

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  9. Kris, this is amazing, thank you for sharing your trip. The desert is so beautiful when it bursts into flower and I loved seeing the hillside covered in Californian poppies.

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    1. Although Lake Elsinore wasn't part of our original travel plan, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see that massive poppy display, Christina - we were surrounded by orange as far as the eye could see!

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  10. Absolutely glorious. Nothing beats seeing plants growing en masse in the wild. That first photo is wonderful. A long trip, but so worth it!

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    1. As you know from your trip through Australia, those long drives in the car can be tiring, Jessica - and, unfortunately, we didn't have the limited traffic you encountered and couldn't stop wherever we'd have liked to.

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  11. It must have been quite the sight to see. Sorry about the traffic, but that is life in your part of the world, so many millions! Bless you for enduring.
    Did they have designated walkways or were people allowed to walk willy-nilly? I worried about foot traffic damaging the habitat.
    Did you see hornworms? I read that they were blooming right along with the flowers, taking advantage of the bounty.

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    1. We saw obvious trails in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park but these were less obvious in the poppy fields near Lake Elsinore, at least at the location where we got off the freeway. There are photos of the hornworms in other posts on-line but I didn't catch sight of any personally.

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  12. What an absolute joy it must have been to see such beauty. I'm glad you were able to be our eyes on this trip. Just looking at the photos makes my heart skip a beat. I love the desert even when it isn't blooming so this is just too spectacular for words.

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    1. I wish we could have given the trip more time - and explored in the early morning hours when it would have been cooler!

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  13. What a bummer that the long drive didn't give you as much time as you would have liked to explore! But thanks for going and sharing your wonderful photos of California's wildflowers with us. I adore California poppies!

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    1. It's amazing to see the poppies en masse like that, Alison.

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  14. Gorgeous! I should look up how our poppy preserve is doing... I'm hoping for a few more weekends for flowers so I can go visit! I think it's a bit behind the San Diego area.

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    1. You should definitely check out your poppy preserve, Renee. Our chances of any more rain seem to be declining and the temperatures are already rising.

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  15. How wonderful to be able to drive out and see this, even if you didn't get to see as much as you would have liked. I especially love those carpets of poppies. -Jean

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    1. I understand that, if we'd had time to hike in a ways, the poppies were visible in all directions as far as the eye could see!

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