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

Fig. 1. A field of Lupinus arizonicus, Arizona lupine, in full bloom on the north side of S22 just east of the Arroyo Salado campground road on 27 January 2019. This field had come into full bloom about a week earlier. Photo by Tom Chester. Click on the photo for a larger version.

Fig. 2. A field of Abronia villosa, sand verbena, in full bloom on the north side of S22 just west of Mile Marker 31 on 1 February 2019. Unfortunately, Brassica tournefortii, Sahara mustard, dominates the foreground. Photo by Tom Chester. Click on the photo for a larger version.


Parts of the Borrego Desert have been in full bloom since mid-January 2019; see Figs. 1 and 2 for two examples. Typically, we now observe over 2,000 plants in bloom of over 50 species on each hike (counting a maximum of 99 plants in bloom for each species). In fact, we have been observing well over 50 species of flowering plants on every hike in both November and December in those areas!

The hot spots are in the Borrego Badlands area, from S22 on the north to San Felipe Creek on the south, and in the Canyon 41 / Canebrake area in the Vallecito Creek area and north (not in the canyons), along with parts of Torote Canyon. Those areas received rain from scattered thunderstorms in mid-October 2018.

The blooms are essentially as good as they ever get in most years, but only in those fortunate areas that received October rain from scattered thunderstorms.

In those areas there are uncountable numbers of plants in full bloom, with some of them honking plants much bigger than one normally sees.

I measured one Lupinus arizonicus flowering stalk in the field shown in Fig. 1 to be 33 inches long (84 cm). The Jepson Manual gives the maximum flowering stalk as being 24 cm long, less than one third the length of many blooming stalks! The longest stalks on most plants were about 24 inches long (60 cm), still 2.5 times longer than the Jepson Manual maximum length. (Note that each stalk has about the same number of flowers open at any time; long stalks have mostly finished flowers and fruit on them. The bloom just "moves up" the stalk as it gets longer.)

As of 9 February 2019, we have observed 190 species in bloom this season, with 168 species in bloom now, and 22 species that may have finished blooming for this season (see list of those species, and a list of others that might be in bloom now, alphabetically by scientific name or by common name).

Fortunately, there has been widespread good rain everywhere beginning in December 2018. As a result, the rest of the desert is in the very early stages of bloom, and will probably begin to come into general bloom around 1 March 2019. But the plants need some warmer weather to grow first. It has been so chilly here, with nearly every day having a below-normal temperature since 1 January, that plants have not been growing very rapidly. Those areas will probably have a normal good bloom, with normal-sized plants, unless we get further rain, which looks possible this year.

iNaturalist has become a wonderful resource to get almost daily updates on what is blooming in the Anza-Borrego Desert, as well as where species were found. Click on "Filters" and select a date range to see the observations from that period. For example, here are all the observations on 1 February 2019 and later, including almost 1,000 observations from just the first five days of the month!

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.

iNaturalist observations in the Borrego Desert since 1 December 2018 (click on "Filters" to change the dates)

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 © 2008-2019 by Tom Chester, Fred Melgert, Carla Hoegen, Walt Fidler, Nancy Accola, Don Rideout, Kate Harper, and Birgit Knorr.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 9 January 2019