Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Ernie Cowan 

Super Bloom Latest: Nature's Greatest Show


Last updated 4/3/2019 at 10:42am

Ernie Cowan

No one is quite ready to use the "S" word, but Mother Nature has smiled down on the thirsty sands of Anza-Borrego and the possibilities of another wildflower Super Bloom are becoming stronger every day.

Record rainfall, scattered throughout the winter months, has created a carpet of green. Early rains also triggered an exceptional bloom in eastern portions of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Ocotillo Wells Off-road Recreation Area, and the spring show should continue to creep west as temperatures warm.

Press coverage has already been intense as the bloom unfolds, so the wise wildflower hunter will be out early on weekdays to avoid crowds that can become crippling on local road and overwhelming for local services on weekends.

By the time you read this, flower displays should be peaking in many areas and then climbing to the higher elevations of the park as temperatures warm.

There's a good reason that no one is really sure if it will be a Superbloom until it happens.

Rainfall is a must for flowers to grow, but there also needs to be ample rainfall spread over the winter, and the right combination of temperature and wind.

A sudden late winter freeze can kill germinating plants and flowers, or a spike in temperatures can wilt and wither buds and plants.

Wind is always a factor in the Spring, and extreme winds can dry out and shred tender blossoms.

So far this year, conditions seem to be just right.

So where are the flowers?

Visitors won't have to wonder, because there will be several resources available to point you in the right direction.

The Anza-Borrego Foundation will have wildflower information booths available in front of the state park store in the Mall and at the end of DiGiorgio Road. Additional locations may be added if needed.

Flower hunters can visit, sponsored by Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, and you can call the Wildflower Hotline at 760-767-4684 for the latest bloom information and road conditions.

There is no doubt that this year's bloom will provide roadside viewing as well as discovery opportunities for hikers and off-road travelers.

By the middle of March, arriving visitors to Borrego Valley should be welcomed by the happy faces of blooming brittlebush. These bright yellow flowers line the highway coming down Montezuma Grade like Nature's welcoming committee.

Spectacular fields of purple sand verbena, white dune primrose, yellow sunflowers, spectacle pod and purple lupine are already blooming along S-22, Borrego-Salton Seaway between mileposts 30 and 35.

Mixed in with this color show are clusters of desert lily and the bright red flowers of the ocotillo are starting to show up as well.

Hikers should park safely along S-22 and venture out into several side canyons, like Palo Verde, Coachwhip and Arroyo Salada to discover more elusive blossoms like ghost flowers or desert five-spot.

Be prepared with sturdy shoes, a hat and plenty of water. Even on mild days, you are working harder than usual and it's easy to dehydrate. Headaches are no fun and adequate hydration can prevent that.

Where the pavement ends at the north end of DiGiorgio Road, the sands are colored with similar clusters of verbena, primrose and sunflowers, and as you continue north on the dirt road into Coyote Canyon, you will find fields of yellow poppies, and the ocotillo forests should soon be in full bloom.

At press time, the road into Coyote Canyon is open to Desert Gardens but is expected to be extended as repair work is completed from winter flood damage.

Here are a few tips to enjoying your wildflower visit.

Come early and consider bringing a picnic. Local restaurants will be swamped on weekends, and what could be more enjoyable than lunch in a field of flowers?

Carry a comb. It's not just to look pretty but serves a far more important task if you happen to encounter the prickly ball of a cholla cactus.

The barbed spines are difficult to remove, and if you try to flick the cactus ball off or remove it with gloves or your fingers, you will only spread the misery. A comb does a great job of removing the cactus ball and many of the spines. It's then easier to get the last few spines with tweezers or pliers.

Be adventurous, but not thoughtless. A road that looks good for your sportscar won't be if you need to pull over for other traffic. Cars will quickly sink in Soft sand and towing from remote places gets really expensive. Check at wildflower information booths for road conditions. Better yet, hike.

Getting away from the crowds is easy with even just a short hike. You also move much slower and will discover so many more flower species and perhaps some of the unique and interesting creatures of the desert.

Beware of snakes. Snake encounters are rare, but spring is a time when temperatures are moderate, and snakes can be active.

Avoid putting your hands into places you can't see. If you do encounter a snake, let everyone around you know, especially if you think it could be a rattlesnake. Simply back away, and the snake will leave you alone.

Spring is a special time in the desert and thousands will come here to enjoy it. If you can visit more remote areas, you will avoid the crowds.

At any rate, enjoy this brief period when nature puts on the greatest show.

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