DESERT SUN -- Wildflowers are fickle. Ample rain is needed each winter month, especially in January and February, in order for the plants to blossom at the proportions that create a superbloom, flower enthusiasts say.
Following that rule, this year’s wildflower season might not be as bright as last year’s, when an epic bloom blanketed the California desert in a palette of petals.
After a wet November and December, Palm Springs has received just 0.04 inches of rain in January, according to the National Weather Service. And the long-range forecasts look drier than normal, too.
Check out drone footage of the wildflower super bloom near Palm Springs at the Salton Sea, Coachella Valley Preserve, Anza Borrego State Park Palm Springs Desert Sun
“Unless we get some good mid- to late-February or March rains, this isn’t going to be a spectacular year at all,” said Cameron Barrows, who specializes in desert ecology at the University of California, Riverside’s Center for Conservation Biology. Prevalence of wildflowers is also influenced by other factors including rainfall patterns and temperatures, he said.
But Palm Springs-based ecological consultant James Cornett is more optimistic.
“All in all, it will be a good year in most places,” he said. Noting that rain storms could still hit the desert in the next two months, he added: “We’re waiting to see if it becomes a great year.”
Wildflowers typically emerge in the California desert in late January, so here are the first places in the California desert to look for big blooms. And a reminder: Respect the flowers. When you tromp through a field of flowers to take a photo, you crush that entire patch of blooms.
Across the California desert, the first place that blooms big is the south-facing Edom Hill, near the intersection of Date Palm Drive and Varner Road in Cathedral City, Cornett says. There, he says, floral fans will find desert sunflowers, sand verbena and Arizona lupine.
Another place to spot early blooms is along Interstate 10 throughout the Coachella Valley, he says. To prevent rubber-necking for flowers, however, Cornett offers a detour: From Cathedral City, travel north on Date Palm toward the highway and then turn right on Varner and go toward Thousand Palms.
Oswit Canyon, located near the intersection of Bogart Trail and South Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, also blooms early, Cornett said. He says he has already spotted some flowers there — including wild heliotrope, chuparosa and brown-eyed primrose — but says it’s far from reaching its peak.
He also expects that flowers will be blooming soon along Box Canyon Road, about three miles east of Mecca.
Barrows, meanwhile, recommended checking out early-blooming flowers near the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.
Mission Springs Canyon, located off Highway 62 and Mission Creek Road should begin blooming in the next couple of weeks, Cornett said. The canyon is about 1,000 miles above the desert floor, he says, so it typically reaches peak bloom in late March or early April.
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