Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Nature Watch: "Desert five-spot"


Last updated 5/10/2023 at 10:54am

Desert Five-spot flower

You know there is something special about things that have several names. That's certainly the case with a delicate and colorful wildflower known as the Desert five-spot, lantern flower of the Chinese lantern.

It's not a blossom you see every spring in Anza-Borrego, and you won't find them in carpeted clusters like sand verbena, but the abundant rainfall this year has produced a bumper crop of these gorgeous flowers.

This annual herb, a member of the Mallow family, is easily recognized by its one-inch, marble-sized globular flowers composed of five, delicate pink to purple petals that open in the sunshine to reveal the namesake five deep red to magenta spots.

The dark green leaves are heart shaped at the base of the plant that grows four to 20 inches in height.

The paper-thin petals of the flower allow light to pass through, giving the appearance of a soft lantern glow inside. This is certainly one of the most beautiful wildflowers found throughout Southwestern deserts at elevations below 4,000 feet.

This is a good year for five-spots, offering wildflower hunters nuggets of beauty as they search for those delicate gems that are less common.

Some of the places where the five-spots are currently blooming include Rockhouse Canyon northwest of Clark Dry Lake, Desert Gardens in Coyote Canyon, Hawk Canyon, Carrizo Badlands Overlook on Highway S-2, Carrizo Canyon just east of the Bow Willow Campground turnoff, and Lava Flow Wash south of S-2.

Check out iNaturalist to see where observations of Desert five-spots and other plant and animal species are logged by nature lovers.

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