Bloom Reports from the Anza-Borrego Desert: 2018-2019


Although the vast majority of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is dry as a bone as of 30 November 2018, a few favored areas received rain from thunderstorms on October 12 and 13, and are looking good. We even have annual germination and well over 50 species of flowering plants in November in the Borrego Badlands and Canyon 41 / Canebrake areas!

In those areas, many plant species grew amazingly quickly from the heat and still-strong October / early November sun in the last month. Nearly all the ocotillos in those areas were wearing their coats of green leaves in mid-November, although some of the leaves are reaching their expiration date unless they receive more rain.

It is easy to describe the favored area around Canyon 41 and Canebrake. There is no germination at all along 41 miles of S2 from its northern end at mile marker zero (the junction with SR79) until one gets to mile marker 41, where all of a sudden the creosote plants are all blooming and the ocotillos are green, with good germination. In the Canyon 41 alluvial plain / Vallecito Creek / Ironwood Canyon area, Nancy Accola, Tom Chester, Carla Hoegen, Fred Melgert, Birgit Knorr, and Don Rideout found 55 species in bloom on 18 November 2018! South of Canebrake the good germination stops.

The situation in the Borrego Badlands area is more complicated, and is best shown with a map. Fig. 1 shows where baby annuals have been observed in the Borrego Badlands / Ocotillo Wells area, along with rainfall reports from stations in the Ocotillo Wells area, and areas where no germination was observed.

It is easy to find these locations using the green-clad ocotillos as flags. Along S22, the annuals are found from just east of Fonts Point Wash to Salton City. Along SR78, the annuals are found from just east of Borrego Springs Road to Ocotillo Wells. Fred and Carla have so far found the best germination on the north side of the East Butte, close to the gauge that recorded 1.55" of rain, in washes that carried the runoff from the rainfall on the East Butte.

Fig. 1. Where the rain of October 13 produced annual germination in the Borrego Springs / Borrego Badlands Area. The Borrego Springs area west of this map is very dry, with no annual germination yet.

Interestingly, few plants of Erodium cicutarium have germinated, probably since it needs cooler temperatures to germinate.

Detailed observations

Fred and Carla drove S22 to the Salton Sea on 12 November 2018 and found roadside annuals all the way from the Thimble Trail to the Salton Sea, as well as signs of flooding in the washes near the Salton Sea.

The western black solid lines along S22 and SR78 in Fig. 1 are where Tom Chester, Kate Harper, and Don Rideout first saw leafed-out ocotillos and annual germination driving west of S22 and on SR78 on 14 November 2018. The "No annuals" label on the map east of the Ocotillo Wells County Airport is where they stopped seeing annuals driving east on SR78. The western black solid line along San Felipe Wash is where Fred and Carla observed a transition between some annuals to the east, and no annuals to the west.

Tom, Kate and Don stopped just east of Fonts Point Wash on 14 November 2018 to see who the annuals were. Along the immediate roadside, the annuals were unfortunately nearly 99% Brassica tournefortii. However, away from the roadside, Brassica tournefortii was only an estimated 10 to 20% of the annuals. This probably means that we will have one more good year in which natives are dominant in that area. However, this area may well become dominated by Brassica tournefortii in the near future if this year's baby mustard plants produce a large number of seeds, completing its comeback from its near total-wipeout by the drought of 2011 to 2014.

Fred and Carla report that as of last year, Brassica tournefortii had already re-taken the Borrego Dunes / Ant Hill between the County Dump Road and Fonts Point.

Fred and Carla did a car tour through the Borrego Badlands on 19 November 2018 specifically to check where germination had occurred, driving the Arroyo Salado, Ella Wash, Palo Verde Wash, Fault Wash, the Cut Across Trail, and up the San Felipe Wash. They recorded at least some germination in five locations shown in Fig. 1, as well as noting no germination in three locations shown in Fig. 1.

On 3 December 2018, Fred and Carla did another car tour along San Felipe Wash, and then to Pole Line Road, and exploring the Pole Line Road area. They found the best germination of any Badlands Area on the north side of the East Butte, from the Buttes Pass Road to the end of the East Butte. The germination was primarily in the washes that drain the East Butte.

Links to Other Webpages, etc. on Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Blooms

Anza-Borrego Wildflowers Bloom Report by Fred Melgert and Carla Hoegen, often with daily wildflower updates.

Wildflower Updates from the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park official site, with wildflower information on it. Click on the link near the top with the word Update, which might be updated weekly.

DesertUSA Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Wildflower Reports

Anza-Borrego Foundation and Institute Wildflowers and their Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Wildflower Hotline: (760)767-4684. "Information on this recording is updated regularly."

Theodore Payne Wildflower Hotline (Reports begin the first Friday in March)

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Copyright © 2008-2018 by Tom Chester, Fred Melgert, Carla Hoegen, and Kate Harper.
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Updated 3 December 2018