Bloom Reports from the Anza-Borrego Desert: 2020-2021

25 November 2020

11 November 2020
Fig. 1. Ericameria paniculata, black-banded rabbitbrush, the blooming star of the show in the Borrego Desert now.

Top: View of a single plant in San Felipe Wash just north of Kenyon Cove on 25 November 2020, by Tom Chester.
Bottom: View of a wonderful display in Canebrake Wash on 25 November 2020, © Juergen Schrenk. See a number of iNat posts of blooming plants by Birgit Knorr and others.

Click on the photos for larger versions.


Ericameria paniculata, black-banded rabbitbrush, is the blooming star of the show in the Borrego Desert now; see Fig. 1. To enjoy it, you'll have to go where it lives: the Collins Valley area, including Third Crossing; the Yaqui Flat / San Felipe Wash area; upper Mescal Bajada; and the Canebrake / Carrizo Creek / Ironwood Wash area;

Except for that species in those areas, there are hardly any blooms at all in the Borrego Desert below 3000 feet now. We didn't get any significant monsoonal rain this summer, which means that, as far as we know, there are no areas with good flower displays now from multiple species. This is unusual; often there are some limited areas that have good displays in the fall from monsoonal rainfall.

On most hikes, expect to see only a handful of plants with any blooms at all, from a very small number of species. Wet areas, like Coyote Creek Second and Third Crossing, probably have ten or twenty species in bloom, and are your best bet if you want to see some blooms other than the black-banded rabbitbrush.

The desert floor in and to the east of Borrego Springs has received essentially no rainfall yet. Borrego Springs at 500 feet elevation received just 0.04" on 7 and 8 November 2020. Joe Woods dug into the sand in a number of areas of the desert floor and reported that the soil is dry.

West of Borrego Springs received decent rainfall on 7 November 2020. Borrego Palm Canyon at 790 feet elevation had 0.37". It appears Hellhole Canyon near the parking lot got at least that much, since Joe Woods reported the sand is moist down at least six inches. This probably isn't enough rainfall to cause widespread germination of native annuals, which generally require a full inch of rain before they germinate. But it could trigger some germination of non-native weeds which is not a good thing. As of 25 November 2020, we have seen only very limited germination of annuals, mostly non-natives, in widely-scattered places.

On 25 November 2020, both Don Rideout and I separately saw a small number of shrubs that are beginning to grow new leaves, such as Mirabilis laevis retrorsa; Bahiopsis parishii; and Justicia californica. A single ocotillo had new leaves and one bloom; all the hundreds of other ocotillos in the same area had no leaves and no blooms. Two plants of Agave deserti were sending up bloom stalks; the hundreds of other Agave plants were not.

Rainfall increased dramatically to the west, with Ranchita at 4008 feet reporting 1.07". But elevations above 3000 feet are unlikely to see any native annual germination or other plant growth until temperatures begin to warm up in February and March.

The best source to look for places that have flowers is the crowd-sourced iNaturalist. You can get almost daily updates on what is blooming, or not 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 November 2020 and later, which totaled 397 observations as of 29 November 2020. Each observation gives the date and time of observation, and the latitude and longitude for each observation, which is plotted on a map so you can see where it was from (note that rare species have obscured coordinates).

Bloom Reports

The latest bloom reports are given first (i.e., the reports are in inverse order of time).

25 November 2020. Don Rideout and Tom Chester hiked separately in the area east of Yaqui Flat and north of SR78, doing somewhat different loops. Don found four species in bloom in his hike: Ditaxis lanceolata, Eriogonum inflatum, ocotillo and chuparosa. Tom found six species in bloom: 10 plants of Ericameria paniculata (see Fig. 1), and one plant of Eriogonum wrightii var. nodosum, Fouquieria splendens, Justicia californica, Peritoma arborea, and Stephanomeria pauciflora.

24 November 2020. Don Rideout reports five species in bloom, Ditaxis lanceolata, Ditaxis neomexicana, Eriogonum inflatum, ocotillo, and chuparosa, in an unnamed canyon north of Dry Canyon, at the bottom end where it meets the valley floor.

23 November 2020. Don Rideout reports only a single species in bloom in Borrego Palm Canyon up to the alternate trail, Eriogonum inflatum. There was limited germination of a few annual species, Phacelia distans and Brassice tournefortii.

22 November 2020. Don Rideout reports seeing three species in bloom (ocotillo, chuparosa, and desert lavender) in a short hike up Dry Canyon from the bottom.

11 November 2020. Tom Chester reports only two species in bloom in Hellhole Canyon up to mile 2.0, five plants of Eriogonum inflatum and a single plant of Peritoma arborea.

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 2019 (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. When they start producing current wildflower reports, 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 (link will be supplied when they create their page this year) 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 © 2008-2021 by Tom Chester and Don Rideout.
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Updated 29 November 2020