21 Feb 19
Santa Cruz Sentinel
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That sound you hear from Southern California in the coming days and weeks could be the deserts exploding in Technicolor.
Desert-watchers say the Golden State is likely in for another ”super bloom” of wildflowers like the one we experienced in 2017. All the ingredients for the colorful cocktail are in place: Deserts parched by recent years of drought. An uncharacteristically rainy fall and winter season that have effectively put the kibosh on that drought. And a cold winter, like the one at that wildflower ground zero called Anza-Borrego, to further lock more moisture into the ground.[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”curated” curated_ids=”4520862,4465610,34084″]
The timing for super bloom is perfect, with annuals normally blooming in mid-March. These flowers leaves seeds each spring that lie dormant all winter. And then — just add water! — the desert’s floors and hillsides go into full Carmen Miranda mode.
Consider yourselves warned: With a super bloom expected in the coming weeks, many campsites at prime wildflower spots already are booked. There are a ton of places online you for to do research and get ready to head for deserts spots such as Anza-Borrego, Death Valley, Coachella Valley Preserve, Palm Desert, Indio Hills, Joshua Tree National Park and many, many more.
Here are some of our favorite online resources for schooling yourself on all things blooming. But first, a quick refresher course from National Geographic:
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Think of this as the local newspaper for the super bloom. Located within a fairly easy drive of many of the desert hot spots, San Diego residents know all about the color fest that goes on most springtimes in their surround desert lands. So does Joshua Emerson Smith, a reporter who compiled a smart and entertaining guide to the 2017 super bloom. That same report could have been written this week, in anticipation of the 2019 super bloom. Here are some of Smith’s bon mots on Anza-Borrego:
“If you’re planning to drive two hours east from San Diego into the desert park, you’ll probably want to head out early. … (It’s essential to bring sunscreen and lots of water.) Getting a prompt start could also help you beat the crowds. Anza-Borrego is California’s biggest state park at 630,000 acres, stretching from the Riverside County line to the Mexican border in eastern San Diego County. But most people pack into the most accessible parts of the desert. …
”A good place to start, especially if you’ve never been to the park before, is the visitors center at the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. You can pick up a free wildflower guide at this unique gift shop and information center, which also offers an outdoor garden with many of the region’s plants marked with placards.
“Also located at the park’s main campground is the Borrego Palm Canyon trail, which offers a roughly 45-minute hike to an oasis.”
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
This state parks website is chock full of flower-viewing tips, including directions, hours of operation and the most current road closures throughout the park. One of the site’s most charming features is its Wildflower Update. As of Feb. 19, the summary had Borrego Badlands weighing in already with “Sand Verbena between Mile Markers 30 and 31; a variety of blooms, including Desert Lilies, at entrances to Coachwhip Canyon and Arroyo Salado Primitive Camp.” Caution: Four-wheel drive is required for dirt roads into the badlands.
Borrego Blooms at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association
The flower-loving posse that maintains this labor of love features all kinds of bloom-related information, including “flower maps” and activities you can take part in during your visit to the park. “There is still a beautiful bloom taking place east of Borrego Springs, in the Borrego Badlands,” the site says this week. “The easiest place to see the flowers is along S22, roughly between mile marker 31 and 38. See our Borrego Badlands map for the best spots to visit. Highway S22 is paved and there are pull-offs for parking and nearby washes to explore. There is also a fantastic display of dune evening primrose and other species not far from the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area’s Discovery Center, along Shell Reef. The trail around the Discovery Center also has many different desert species in bloom. This area is also on the map.”
More good news: You still have plenty of time to get down to the Borrego Valley, the site says: “A major bloom has not yet started, but recent rain increases the likelihood of an excellent bloom in this area, most likely starting in early to mid March, depending on weather. One area that is worth exploring at this time is the end of DiGiorgio Road, at the entrance to Coyote Canyon, where a localized bloom is steadily expanding. Coyote Canyon Road is currently closed to vehicles and foot traffic due to flood damage but people can park on DiGiorgio Road and walk into the flower fields.”
Here’s an example of a wildflower update on Thursday from flower-peeper Marcy Yates, who “reports more colors are starting to pop at the end of the pavement at (DiGiorgio Road). Due to flooding, the road to Coyote Canyon is closed at the end of the pavement. Park and walk east on the dirt road. The farther east you go, the more colors you will see. Verbena, brown-eyed primroses, dune evening primroses and desert sunflowers are scattered. At least one desert lily was blooming.”
News from Palm Springs and Coachella Valley
Maureen Gilmer, a horticultural journalist who regularly contributes to DESERT magazine and The Desert Sun newspaper, told the newspaper this week that “the recent cold snap is slowing the super bloom in the Coachella Valley. Many existing wildflower blossoms froze or went on hold this frosty week except the desert verbena.” The paper points out that Palm Springs is currently experiencing a record cold streak. “The city, famed as a warm-weather winter getaway, hasn’t experienced 80-degree weather since before Thanksgiving. It hasn’t seen 90-degree weather since before Halloween,” according to the report. And in terms of that weather’s impact on the super bloom, Gilmer said it will most likely “take a week of hot days to really make it pop.” She said the first week in March “might be optimal,” and you can “add a month to that in the high desert due to snow and frozen ground.”
Back when the super bloom of 2017 was underway, amateur photographers took to Instagram to share their wildflower images. One well-used backdrop, of course, was Death Valley, leading to the #deathvalleywildflowers. Check out the images and add your own.
View this post on Instagram
#sidewinderhike #wildflowers #DeathValleywildflowers #desertwildflowers
A post shared by Emily Silverman (@sfswim) on Apr 14, 2017 at 8:39pm PDT
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Does that roll off the tongue, or what? A lovely place dedicated to California’s lovely state flower, also known by its Latin tongue-twisting name of Eschscholzia Californica. Since 1903, this butter-colored sweetie pie has been celebrated up and down the Golden State. At the reserve, folks are settling in for the Big Show. “As of February 20th, poppy plants are still small and tiny first buds have been spotted,” the website says. “We expect the first poppies will bloom in time for our visitor center opening on March 1st, and last through April. Some small ‘belly flowers’ such as filaree, slender keel fruit and forget-me-nots have started blooming on the east side of the park. The Joshua trees in front of the visitor center have large buds on them.” Check out the site. And remember, the poppy is California’s highly protected poster child. So no picking and no photo-taking while standing amidst the poppery! “Please remember, visitors must stay on OFFICIAL TRAILS only; photos in the flowers are not allowed in the park. Walking in the poppies creates dirt patches and may result in a ticket. DO NOT walk where others have already damaged the habitat; it will compound the damage and leave a scar for years to come. Commercial and student filming/photography requires a permit. No dogs, bikes on trails, drones, or picking flowers.”
Finally, this clarification from the state Department of Fish & Wildlife: “It is often believed that there are laws prohibiting the cutting or damaging of the California poppy because it is the state flower. While there is no law protecting the California poppy specifically, California Penal Code Section 384a requires written landowner permission to remove and sell plant material from land that a person does not own, and removing or damaging plants from property that a person does not own without permission may constitute trespass and/or petty theft. However, these laws do not prevent the collection of California poppies on private land by the landowner. California poppies are a beautiful and easy-to-grow addition to your garden, and although you may choose to pick them from your property, they last much longer in the ground!”
Rising from the ashes
Timeout Los Angeles has just published a handy guide to places around LA to take in the super bloom, assuming it comes off as planned. One place mentioned of particular note is Malibu Creek State Park. Why? Because, as Timeout points out, this park is “a completely changed landscape in the wake of the devastating Woolsey Fire. As hikers returned to the area in December 2018, they found formerly lush hillsides turned to black. But this winter’s rain has already brought patches of green to the area, and according to reports from both Curbed and Atlas Obscura, a miracle superbloom could blanket the region. Stay tuned: This could be one of the closest-to-home spots among this year’s blooms.”
This group is dedicated to the preservation of wildflowers — how’s that for a life mission!
Ask any wildflower fan worth his or her salt and they’ll know all about the Theodore Payne Wild Flower Hotline. Founded in 1983, the service offers free weekly online and recorded updates; the first one for this spring season will be up and running March 1. Until then, check out the group’s website, and hear last year’s final recording that describes the best locations for viewing spring wildflowers in Southern and Central California. The service runs through May, and it can be reached at 818-768-1802, ext. 7 each Friday to hear the most up-to-date report. Each is recorded by Emmy Award winner Joe Spano, the “voice of the wild flower hotline.” Spano was originally best known for his role as Lt. Henry Goldblume on “Hill Street Blues” and more recently has claimed fame for his role on “NCIS” as FBI Special Agent Tobias C. Fornell.
You can take part in the wildflower-preservation movement by sending in your own viewing tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can explore a whole slew of features on wildflowers in California, including a native plan database, a seed shop and even a primer on planting your own wildflowers.
Now go out there and be fruitful!