Bloom Reports from the Anza-Borrego Desert: 2012-2013
whispering bells, Emmenanthe penduliflora Photograph of two germination classes of whispering bells, Emmenanthe penduliflora, taken on 11 February 2013 in a wash along the road to Glorietta Canyon. The larger plants on the right germinated from the 13 December 2012 rain, and thus are seen 60 days after that rain event. The smaller plants on the left germinated from the 26 January 2013 rain, and thus are seen 16 days after that rain event.
The inset shows a larger version of one of the younger plants that is actually out of sight to the left of the original picture. The white bars just indicate what its size would be in the original picture by referring to a similar younger plant.
Clearly, it will be a while before these plants start blooming.
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
Although this year is now the worst bloom year in the past five years that we have been tracking the bloom numerically, and the worst bloom year so far since the severe drought year of 2005-2006, it will not be a total bust in all places. Annual germination has occurred in at least a few places in the washes and canyons on the western edge of the desert. In some places, the baby annuals are quite abundant.
Germination and blooms have been delayed due to late and light rainfall, along with a long stretch of unusually-cold temperatures. (See the inch-thick ice found below Big Spring at about 2500 feet elevation on 17 January 2013!) As a result, the plots here show a sad story so far: 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 curves that have not yet turned up for the # species in bloom and # plants in bloom for each trip.
The number of plants in bloom on a typical full-day trip as of 1 February for this year is down by a factor of 5 to 20 from previous years:
Number of plants and species observed in bloom on a typical full-day trip on 1 February
Year # species in bloom # plants in bloom each trip 2009 30 400 2010 35 650 2011 60 1500 2012 40 1000 2013 11 84
The comparison to previous years is getting worse as time goes on.
As of 12 February 2013, the town of Borrego Springs has received just 1.4 inches since 1 October, compared to 3.5 inches in the 2010-2011 season. As a result, many areas, such as the hillsides above the Montezuma Grade of S22, still mostly look like they do in late summer, completely dormant. Most lower-elevation hillside areas, the Badlands, and the desert floor, may have essentially no blooms this year.
But a number of washes and canyons have abundant young not-yet-flowering plants of whispering bells, Emmenanthe penduliflora; white fiesta flower, Pholistoma auritum var. arizonicum; and common phacelia, Phacelia distans, a promise of blooms to come, for at least those three annual species. In fact, we don't recall seeing so many whispering bell plants in past years. Conditions must have been optimal this year for that species.
- Detailed Germination, Growth and Bloom Reports From Each Hike: 2012-2013.
- Pictures From Each Hike: 2012-2013.
- Number of Species and Plants in Bloom On Each Trip: 2012-2013.
- List of Species in Bloom On Each Trip, With Photographs: 2012-2013.
- Rainfall in 2012-2013.
Predictions for This Year
At minimum, there will probably be decent flowers from three annual species in some of the canyons on the west side above the desert floor.What kind of bloom is produced now depends on whether we get further rain, and temperatures. With no further rainfall, and if the temperatures go into the 80s and stay there, which has happened in some past Februaries, blooms will be few. With further rainfall, and continued mild temperatures, which has also happened in some other past Februaries, the annual display could be good in a number of places, at least for three species.
Copyright © 2008-2013 by Tom Chester, Kate Harper, and Mike Crouse.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 12 February 2013