Bloom Reports from the Anza-Borrego Desert: 2012-2013

California matchweed, Gutierrezia californica
Photograph of flower of Gutierrezia californica
California trixis, Trixis californica
Photograph of flower of Trixis californica
Pictures taken on 2 January 2013 in Plum Canyon.

See also Pictures shown here on prior dates.

See Bloom Reports from the Anza-Borrego Desert for an introduction to this page, extensive general information (not specific to this year) about Annual Germination, Growth and Blooms, including what influences the duration and extent of the annual bloom, photo galleries, and links to other webpages giving information on Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Blooms.

Summary of Annual Germination, Growth and Blooms in 2012-2013

This year is now officially tied with two other years as the worst bloom years in the past five years that we have been tracking the bloom numerically, and is on the cusp of being the worst bloom year since the severe drought year of 2006. The plots here show the sad story: Number of Species and Plants in Bloom On Each Trip: 2012-2013. We are scraping along the bottom of the plot for the # plants in bloom for each trip, and have the only curve that has not yet turned up for the # species in bloom for each trip.

Worse, there are no prospects for any decent amount of bloom from annuals since we have observed only scanty annual germination in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. If there are no baby annual plants, there can't be any blooms from adult plants.

As of 24 January 2013, the desert floor has only received 0.2 to 0.5 inches of rain since 1 September 2012, which isn't enough to germinate annuals except possibly along roadsides and other places with similar runoff. Higher elevations on the west side have gotten a bit more rain, enough to produce some germination.

Although we have had pathetic years in parts of the Borrego Desert before, in the past five years we have had at least one area with good annual germination. So far the entire Borrego Desert is pathetic. The nearest spot we know of with decent germination is in El Centro by the Mexican border.

Normally, annual germination occurs in late December or early January, and we are well past that time, pretty much eliminating the possibility that this will be a good bloom year. But the fat lady hasn't sung yet; we could still have a decent bloom year if significant rain falls by mid-February. February and March rains can still germinate annuals, but unless rain continues to fall regularly after that germination, those rains will only produce tiny annuals with a few small flowers.

In fact, as we write this on 25 January 2013, some rain is currently falling in the desert and the radar map shows more on the way, so the story could change if enough rain falls to germinate annuals.

So far, we have observed scanty germination at the desert's westernmost edge in the San Felipe Valley and Sentenac Canyon, and in widely-scattered parts of Henderson Canyon. In Henderson Canyon on 1/12/13, the main wash had scattered babies of whispering bells, Emmenanthe penduliflora, just producing their first true leaves. Shady spots under boulders in the upper canyon hold hundreds of plants of white fiesta flower, Pholistoma auritum var. arizonicum, also producing their first true leaves.

Farther west, Culp Valley now looks green from annual germination, but most germination is of two non-native species: redstem filaree, Erodium cicutarium, and red brome, Bromus madritensis ssp. rubens. We observed a few prickly poppies, Argemone munita, on 21 December 2012 in Shelter Valley, and a handful of white fiesta flowers, Pholistoma membranaceum, on 8 January 2013 in Sentenac Canyon. Mike Crouse found decent annual germination in one wash next to the Mexican border in the El Centro area in Imperial County on 18 December 2012 and on 22 January 2013.

Plants along the Montezuma Grade of S22 still mostly look like they do in late summer, completely dormant.

See also:

Predictions for This Year

It doesn't look good, but the fat lady hasn't sung yet, and it is currently raining lightly in the desert.

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Copyright © 2008-2013 by Tom Chester, Kate Harper, and Mike Crouse.
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Updated 25 January 2013