Bloom Reports from the Anza-Borrego Desert: 2020-2021
Table of Contents
Latest Summary of Bloom Status
Bloom Reports from Individual Hikes This Season
Links to Other Webpages on Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Blooms
Background Information for Bloom Reports from the Anza-Borrego Desert
Older Bloom Reports from 2009 to present
Fig. 1. Flowers from Palm Wash, 15 February 2021. Top: turtleback, Psathyrotes ramosissima, by Don Rideout.
Bottom: Orcutt's Woody-Aster, Xylorhiza orcuttii, by Tom Chester.
Click on the photos to go to Don's iNat observation for each plant.
Latest Summary of Bloom Status
Summary as of 16 February 2021
There continue to be "flowers few" in most places in the Borrego Desert below 3000 feet now, and there are no plants of any annual species at all on the desert floor in the Borrego Springs area, from Second Crossing of Coyote Creek and east, since there has been essentially no rain on the desert floor this season.
Outside of washes, nearly all of the desert floor looks (and is) bone dry, with most plants still looking as if it were late summer.
However, in at least some washes with deep sand, the shrubs look amazingly good, with some plants of the usual suspects of cheesebush, chuparosa, and desert lavender flowering as if it had rained; see the lower picture in Fig. 1. In fact, they are probably flowering from rain that came in late April when we had a widespread two inch rain, producing large runoff flows in the washes. The water from that even has been stored in the sand since then, and was mostly unused then by the same shrubs since they were already going into their summer dormant mode.
In contrast, places where plants were used to having running water, such as Second Crossing, look terrible; see the top of the 2 February 2021 bloom report.
In the desert transition zone above and west of the desert floor, plants look happier, and there are annuals that have begun blooming in some places. In the 15 days from 1 February to 15 February 2021, there have been iNat posts of just 15 native annual plants (plants, not species!) in bloom (see note about this link). Just 15 plants of nine species of annuals in bloom! In a good bloom year, we would have thousands of plants of 80 species of annuals in bloom at this time. The culprit this year once again is the lack of rain. Nearly every place in the desert transition zone has received less than half their normal rainfall, so it won't be a good year in the desert transition zone, either.
On 15 February 2021, Montezuma Grade had about 50 plants of Encelia farinosa in bloom, along with 15 plants of creosote. However, only a single Encelia plant was showy, covered with blooms. All the others had just a straggly stalk or two with a small number of flowers. There were no other noticeable blooms on the Grade.
Fortunately, the desert is still a wonderful place to be at this time of year, with comfortable temperatures and fascinating plants, even if most of them are not blooming. And "flowers few" makes it more like a Treasure Hunt to find the species that are in bloom, such as finding the plant of turtleback shown at the top of Fig. 1, the only plant of that species seen in a seven mile loop hike.
iNat is a wonderful way to get a list of species that have been observed to be in bloom recently. For example, see the species noted as being in bloom here since 1 February 2021, which totaled 160 observations of 56 species in the 15 day interval as of 16 February 2021 (see note about this link). The most commonly-posted species in bloom so far this season are the usual suspects of chuparosa, desert lavender, and creosote. (Note: the linked query will only find iNat observations that are annotated as "flowering". We and others are trying to keep the annotations up to date, at least while there aren't too many observations to keep up with.)
For comparison, on 9 February 2019 there were 168 species in bloom on that date!
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 posted on 1 February 2021 and later, which totaled 1,095 observations of 191 species as of 16 February 2021 (the vast majority were of course not in bloom!). 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).
Note about links to species in bloom at iNat: To see the iNat observations of blooming plants of a given species at the link, click on the word "observations" in the shaded bottom part of the pix used on that iNat page for that species. Clicking anyplace else on that pix just takes you to the taxon page at iNat.
Winter / Spring annual plants in bloom posted at iNat from 1 February to 15 February 2021: three plants of Phacelia distans, common phacelia; three plants of Pholistoma membranaceum, white fiesta flower; two plants each of Mimulus bigelovii = Diplacus bigelovii, Bigelow's monkeyflower, and Amsinckia sp., fiddleneck; and one plant each of Abronia villosa, sand verbena; Eschscholzia minutiflora, little gold poppy; Lupinus concinnus, Bajada lupine; Lupinus arizonicus, Arizona lupine; and Camissoniopsis pallida, pale yellow suncup. These are included in the list of all species reported in bloom during this time.
Bloom Reports from Individual Hikes This Season
The latest bloom reports are given first (i.e., the reports are in inverse order of time).
15 February 2021. Tom Chester and Don Rideout report 17 species in bloom in a 7 mile loop hike on the south and middle fork of Palm Wash. This relatively high number of species in bloom (for this year out in the desert proper) was entirely unexpected by either of them. The plants in bloom were almost solely in the washes, and we speculate they were able to bloom from water storage in the sand from the two inches of rain that fell here in late April 2020, and the resulting stream flow. The plants didn't use that water during the summer since they were dormant, and waited until now to start making good use of that stored water.
Tom reports that Montezuma Grade had about 50 plants of Encelia farinosa in bloom, along with 15 plants of creosote. However, only a single Encelia plant was showy, covered with blooms. All the others had just a straggly stalk or two with a small number of flowers. There were no other noticeable blooms on the Grade.
10 February 2021. Tom Chester and Don Rideout did a 7.5 mile loop trip along the Pinyon Wash Road, from its junction with Nolina Wash to its end, and found just four species in bloom, with only a handful of plants of each species in bloom except for larger number of chuparosa in bloom.
9 February 2021. Walt Fidler reports "a little annual germination has finally started in the Carrizo Creek area. The most common baby is Pholistoma membranaceum, but there are also some Phacelia distans, Emmenanthe, Erodium cicutarium, Salvia columbariae, and Eulobus.
8 February 2021. RT Hawke reports:Just back from our first Anza trip. Just like you, are observing no annuals. Palm wash had soil moisture, 11 species in bloom (very few flowers). Some plants were very happy like cheese bush, but other species still look like they are drought dormant. Glorietta canyon had 4 species in bloom (one lyre pod). It also had a lot of soil moisture. One individual of Hyptis was in full bloom, but most still looking like the changeover from drought stress. Crossosoma was still dormant, whereas in Whitewater canyon, all plants have new green leaves and are covered in buds. The ocotillos were leafed out in Glorietta- especially upper canyon.
5 February 2021. Walt Fidler reports there was no germination seen in his five days of hiking at the southern end of the Park from 1 to 5 February 2021, including at Bow Willow, Mountain Palm Springs, and Carrizo Creek.
5 February 2021. Don Rideout and Tom Chester did a 5.5 mile loop on the Mescal Bajada, up Mine Wash Road from SR78 to its mile 2.1, then across the alluvial fan to Chuckwalla Wash, down Chuckwalla Wash and then back to the cars. That area was bone dry, with no annuals, and with nearly every plant looking just like they did last fall. We struggled to eventually find just four species in bloom. Don found a single blooming Mammy dioica out of over 80 plants (none of the rest even had buds); a single blooming Hyptis = Condea; a single blooming ocotillo; and we saw perhaps 30 or 40 plants of Justicia with blooms.
1 February 2021. Don Rideout did a several mile hike in Tubb Canyon and Loki Canyon, finding ten species in bloom, including the first Mammillaria dioica of the season.
31 January 2021. Tom Chester and Don Rideout hiked a 4.5 mile loop from the Alcoholic Pass Trailhead, and found just five species in bloom, with just one or a few plants of each species except ocotillo, which had about 30 plants in bloom.
30 January 2021. Don Rideout hiked about two miles in the Horse Camp Area just northwest of Borrego Springs, and found just four species in flower.
21 January 2021. Tom Chester hiked a three mile loop at the southern end of Borrego Springs, near the first 90° curve of Borrego Springs Road, and found only a handful of species in bloom.
15 January 2021. Tom Chester hiked a five mile loop east of Vallecito County Park, finding few species in bloom. But Tom observed some nice native annual germination in Mason Valley just south of Box Canyon.
11 January 2021. Tom Chester hiked a four mile loop from S22 / Palo Verde Wash, north outside of the wash, east to just short of Smoke Tree Wash, south to Palo Verde Wash, and back by Palo Verde Wash. There were just five species in bloom.
4 January 2021. Tom Chester hiked a six mile loop from the Villager Peak Trailhead, up to the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, and then around Lute Ridge. There were no plants blooming in most areas (see Fig. 1). The sandy areas near Lute Ridge contributed a total of 24 plants of eight species in bloom.
30 December 2020. Tom Chester hiked a seven mile loop at the southeast base of Coyote Mountain, and found just 22 plants of five species in bloom.
26 December 2020. Don Rideout botanized the lowermost 3.5 miles of Nolina Canyon and Pinyon Canyon, and found six species in bloom. Five of those species had just a few plants in bloom, but there were still a hundred or so plants of Ericameria paniculata in bloom.
22 December 2020. Tom Chester botanized a 4.5 mile loop on the north side of Borrego Mountain, west of Buttes Pass Road, and found about 40 plants of 11 species in bloom.
18 December 2020. Tom Chester botanized a 4.5 mile loop of two tributaries of San Felipe Creek east of Borrego Springs Road, and found the best bloom of any area so far this year: 18 species in bloom, with hundreds of plants of Dicoria, Palafoxia, and Psorothamnus emoryi in bloom. The other species had one to 15 plants in bloom.
14 December 2020. Tom Chester botanized an 8 mile loop of two tributaries of San Felipe Creek east of Borrego Springs Road, and found 15 species in bloom, with hundreds of plants of Dicoria, Palafoxia, and Psorothamnus emoryi in bloom. The other species had one to ten plants in bloom.
9 December 2020. Tom Chester botanized a 5 mile loop in Cactus Valley, finding just three species in bloom.
4 December 2020. Tom Chester botanized an 8 mile loop in San Felipe Creek below The Narrows, finding 13 species in bloom. The surprise was finding 30 plants in bloom of ground-cherry, Physalis crassifolia, and 15 blooming plants of Palafoxia. The other species had one to ten plants in bloom.
30 November 2020. Tom Chester botanized a 5 mile loop just east of Yaqui Flat, finding the usual six species in bloom, with 44 total plants in bloom.
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 Brassica 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 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 2020 (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)
Copyright © 2008-2021 by Tom Chester and Don Rideout.
Commercial rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce any or all of this page for individual or non-profit institutional internal use as long as credit is given to us at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 18 February 2021