Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Wildflower Treasure Hunt


Last updated 5/10/2022 at 11:37am

Ernie Cowan

Residents and tourists aren't the only ones who love the wildflowers in Borrego. This ram enjoys a nice fresh brittlebush on the Montezuma Grade.

Some years the desert wildflower bloom is like a rich gold mine, with nuggets scattered just about everywhere you look. When there is no Super Bloom, like this year, there are still wildflowers to discover and enjoy, but it's more like a treasure hunt. Desert veterans know that even in the driest years, there are wildflowers to be found.

As the heat of approaching summer begins to climb, those willing to do some exploring still have some beautiful blossoms to enjoy. This is not a year where the sands of Borrego will glow with the purple hue from a blanket of sand verbena. There will be no fields of desert sunflowers, dune primrose or lupine. But you are likely to find some of all of these if you are willing to put on those hiking boots and wander a bit.

To begin your hunt, start by calling the park's Wildflower Hotline at 760-767-4684. It's like a not-so-secret treasure map to those hidden wildflower gems scattered about the desert.

Many of the more delicate annuals have started to fade, but perennials like the fiery red chuparosa and the brittlebush are still sporting spring color. In fact, visitors to Borrego Springs will notice the bright yellow crowns of the brittlebush lining the highway as they come down Montezuma Grade. These happy flowers act like representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, welcoming everyone to the valley.

A stop at the Visitor Center is also a good idea for the flower hunter. Many species are watered here, so they thrive a bit more than their wild cousins. You can also get maps and the latest bloom locations during your visit.

Palo verde trees with their bright yellow flowers are starting to bloom at the visitor center as well as the showy hedgehog cactus with their large, magenta blossoms.

The park's many species of cactus tend to bloom later in the spring, and many are now just starting to bud. Lower Coyote Canyon, accessible by passenger vehicles, is a good place to look for blooming cactus and brittlebush as well as the waxy red clusters of ocotillo flowers that are entering prime season. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, continue up Coyote Canyon to Lower Willows where there is flowing water in the creek and more concentrations of blooms.

Borrego Palm Canyon is also a good place for late season wildflowers, since there is water. Chuparosa and brittlebush should still be putting on color shows, along with several species of cholla cactus. Further south in the park, both yucca and agave are starting to bloom now, with some of the best concentrations along Highway S-2 around Mason Valley.

Daytime temperatures are starting to climb, so plan your hikes for mornings or late afternoon to avoid midday heat. Also, remember to carry water, wear a broad-brim hat, tell someone where you are planning to hike and be alert for rattlesnakes that will be more active now.

As the winter crowds begin to diminish, this can be one of the most enjoyable times to be in the desert. Daytime temperatures are tolerable, you can be alone in the beauty of nature and there is still the excitement of finding that cluster of wildflowers tucked into some remote canyon or desert wash.