March 21, 2019

Photo Essay: Dispatches from the Superbloomin' Anza-Borrego Desert

There was one surefire way I could tell that this year's wildflower season was a superbloom.

I saw it from above, as we pulled over from the Montezuma Grade and looked down at the valley floor of Borrego Springs.

And when we got up close to those patches of yellow (mostly desert dandelion), they did not disappoint.

But unlike two years ago, when everything in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park bloomed pretty much all of the same time and blanketed many fields with flowers, this year's superbloom is more of a "growing bloom."

That means we encountered just one really great field during our weekend there (except of course for the poppy-filled Cactus Loop Trail).

But there will be more great fields for those who go after me.

Superbloom or not, I always love this time of year in Anza-Borrego, even despite the crowds that descend upon California's largest state park every year.

The creosote bushes are all abloom in yellow, not having formed their little white puffy balls quite yet.

This year, the sand verbena (Abronia villosa) was particularly showing off in the sandy roadsides (and pretty much everywhere else we looked, too).

And we got some desert chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana) for some nice white contrast, too.

I told my companion to keep her eyes out for the desert lily (Hesperocallis undulata), since it's so uncommon that I had to go birding on the golf course to see any last year. This year, I saw three.

But even common wildflowers, like the blue phacelia (a.k.a. wild heliotrope, Phacelia distans), are pretty special when you get to see them.

And one of the best places to see them—as well as purple chia sage (Salvia columbariae), whose flower balls hadn't all fully blossomed—was at the Anza-Borrego park visitor center.

During a superbloom, the park headquarters is probably the busiest place of all—if not for its wild landscaping (and blooming barrel cactus), then for its public restrooms, maps, and volunteer-provided information.

So on our second day, we went a little farther off the beaten path and drove down the road that cuts through the Ocotillo Forest and dips between fields of yellow poppies (a.k.a. the Texas Dip).

I've seen—and drip-irrigated—plenty of red ocotillo in my day, but I've never witnessed such a dense concentration of them.

And they all appeared to be green-leafed and blooming red.

Among the desert flora I've ever encountered, I never get sick of red ocotillo.

But I did want to see something new, so we headed farther east on Highway 78 than I've ever been (save for driving through Brawley) to check out Ocotillo Wells.

The area is best-known for its off-roading, but the Discovery Center offers a really nice interpretive trail for plants.

And this time of year, it was full of goldfields and Arizona lupine, among others.

But Ocotillo Wells is also where I could envision the end of the superbloom coming quickly—because that was where we witnessed several caterpillars of the sphinx moth.

And once those start munching away, it's like a death knell for wildflower season.

I'm glad we went when we did.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Yellow Poppies Take Over the Cactus Loop Trail in Anza-Borrego
The Worst of the Superbloom, At Walker Canyon
A Desert Reappearance
Photo Essay: Birding Anza-Borrego During the Superbloom
Dispatches from the Butterfly Boom

1 comment:

  1. Very nice piece, with the names of plants to go along with pictures.