Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Nature Watch: "Bigelow's Monkeyflower"


Last updated 2/24/2023 at 11:16am

Bigelow's Monkeyflower

Like a thousand smiling faces, the tiny blossoms of the monkeyflower are beginning to pop up to greet hikers in some of Anza-Borrego's sandy washes.

This is a pleasant surprise for winter visitors to California's largest state park who typically are not treated to these colorful blooms until spring, and then only when there has been enough rainfall.

This year is shaping up to be a good wildflower year, and perhaps even a rare Superbloom if the cycle of rainstorms continues.

Right now, winter rains arrived right on the heels of fall monsoon storms. These perfectly spaced rain events have produced a beautiful show of flowers, including carpets of purple sand verbena, yellow desert sunflowers, lupine, dune primrose, and the delicately beautiful Bigelow's monkeyflower.

It's nature taking advantage of rainfall, sunlight and perfect temperatures that mimicked spring conditions.

The monkeyflower is not something seen every year. This is a plant that thrives in a wet spring and then grows well in the sandy bottoms of desert washes or on adjacent rocky slopes.

When the monkeyflower blooms, the clustered plants can produce a beautiful carpet of pink to magenta or purple, one-inch trumpet flowers with a bright yellow throat.

The monkeyflower plant is a low growing, hairy annual herb that can range from green to red in color. They will typically bloom between March and June when there has been enough rain, but this year's exceptional rainfall has triggered an earlier bloom.

Some of the areas where the carpet of monkeyflowers is blooming now include Carrizo Creek, south of Highway S-2, June Wash and Glorietta Canyon, but hikers are likely to find them in many other sandy washes as well.

It's an exciting time to be wandering in the desert and discovering the many treasures that only appear briefly when the arid sands have been blessed with rainfall.

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