SPRING 2014 WILDFLOWER SEASON IS OFF TO A GREAT START – WITH HEAVY RAIN IN NOVEMBER 2013
November 25, 2013:
Heavy rains amounting to near 2 inches of rainfall arrived on November 22-23, 2013. This is exactly what is needed to get the winter/spring annual wildflower season started. Rainfall was heaviest through the center of Arizona, with Organ Pipe National Monument, Tucson, and Phoenix all in the path of the storm.
This is optimistic for a wildflower display in spring! We will have wildflowers germinating in response to this rainfall. The rain has come early enough to give us a good start for the winter growing season. Ongoing rains will determine whether these seedlings grow large enough to produce a conspicuous wildflower show. The extent of future rains will determine how large and extensive the wildflower display may be.
Large displays from carpets of colorful wildflower blossoms are produced by annual desert wildflowers which grow during the winter and mature in spring. These are called winter (or spring) annual wildflowers, and they do not provide a spectacular display every year. Only those years with sufficient winter rainfall will encourage this, and that may be only once a decade.
Flowers in the desert are also produced by perennial wildflowers and shrubs. These plants are more dependable and will flower during all but the driest spring times. However, the perennials rarely grow in mass the way the winter annuals do. Many also bloom later during the spring.
Spring wildflowers will bloom first at lower elevations. Starting in mid to late February wildflowers may be sought in low warm desert areas such as the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. As the season progresses wildflowers will come into bloom around Phoenix in South Mountain Park, Estrella Mountain Park, and Lost Dutchman State Park. Slightly later, wildflowers will be at their best at Picacho Peak State Park, Saguaro National Park, and Catalina State Park. By late March and April, wildflowers will be at their peak in Sabino Canyon, the Catalina Mountains, and the Tucson Mountains. These are estimates which will be influenced by how cold or warm the winter is, and by rainfall patterns. More rain equals better wildflower displays. Different wildflowers bloom sequentially through the spring, so if you miss the big bloom of desert poppies for instance, you may still find other wildflowers coming into bloom which had not been flowering earlier. As annual wildflowers fade in mid to late April, they are followed by perennial wildflowers, cacti, and shrubs which tend to bloom through May. Most flowering in the low desert ends by June, except for some desert trees and cacti.
Summer rainfall in the Sonoran Desert produces its own crop of annual wildflowers. These tend to be entirely different species than the winter annuals. Good summer rains may stimulate blooms on certain perennial wildflowers, but most plants have a discreet bloom season and will not deviate.
This website offers a measure of the previous month’s accumulated rainfall:
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