Bloom Reports from the Anza-Borrego Desert: 2021-2022
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. Seedlings observed in Henderson Canyon on 12 January 2022. Left: white fiesta flower, Pholistoma membranaceum, by Don Rideout. Right: common phacelia, Phacelia distans, by Tom Chester. Click on the pix to go to the iNat posts of these plants.
Latest Summary of Bloom Status
Summary as of 3 February 2022
Yes, Virginia, there will be annual blooms in the Borrego Desert this year, at least in the higher-elevation areas west of the town of Borrego Springs! We found widespread annual native germination in Henderson Canyon on 12 January 2022, from late December 2021 rainfall, and in Plum Canyon on 30 January 2022. A friend reported good germination in the Inner Pasture on 16 January 2022. It is likely that all canyons west of the desert floor in the northern half of Anza Borrego Desert State Park have similar germination. Another good sign is that many ocotillos have leafed out along the Montezuma Grade, and some Encelia farinosa plants are starting to look happier.
The first Mammillaria dioica blooms have been spotted, and Prunus fremontii is now in full bloom along S2 just north of Scissors Crossing. Bladderpods are in good bloom in Sentenac Gorge along SR78.
But don't expect to see many flowers for about a month. We saw only eight species in bloom in 3.0 miles of Plum Canyon from S22 to the saddle overlook of Shelter Valley on 30 January 2022; seven species in bloom in 2.2 miles of upper Mine Canyon on 25 January 2022; eight species in bloom on a 3.5 mile loop just southwest of Blair Valley on 21 January 2022; five species in bloom in 2.5 miles of the Villager Peak Trail on 16 January 2022; and four species in bloom on a 9 mile hike in Henderson Canyon on 12 January 2022. In the previous three weeks, on four separate hikes, we saw just 7, 21, 4, and 13 species in bloom.
This is so far looking to be, at best, an average bloom year for areas west of the desert floor. The number of species in bloom in an average year doesn't start increasing until 1 February, with over 60 species in bloom on a full-day hike not observed until early March, and over 80 species in bloom not observed until late March. See plot of the number of species in bloom versus date for seven previous years from 2008 to 2015 (see also additional plots and background information on the plots).
Unfortunately, most of the desert floor appears not to have received enough rainfall yet to produce germination, so most of the desert floor east of Borrego Springs will not have any annual flowers this year unless we get more rainfall. Worse, we have only six weeks left of the heaviest part of the rainfall season, and the National Weather Service sees no rain even on the horizon in all of February.
We checked for germination along S22 from Borrego Springs to the Villager Peak Trailhead on 16 January 2022, and found no germination anyplace on that route. Specifically, Don has no germination in the non-watered parts of his yard just northwest of Christmas Circle. We found no germination across from the Roadrunner Golf & Country Club; none at the corner of S22 and the Dump Road; and none just east of Fonts Point Wash. We saw no germination at all on our hike on 16 January 2022 on 2.5 miles of the Villager Peak Trail. Almost all of the plants there looked to be in their summer dormant state, with not a single ocotillo having leaves.
Fig. 2 has a map of areas where germination has been observed, as well as a map of areas that look very dry. A few areas shown on both maps have limited annual germination but still have most other plants looking very dry.
Fig. 2. Left: Areas where native annual germination has been observed in January 2022. Right: Areas where all the plants look very dry. A few areas shown on both maps have limited annual germination but still have most other plants looking very dry. Click on the pix for larger versions.
Thanks to some scattered summer rainfall, and some October rainfall, some areas of the Borrego Desert have some species in bloom right now. If you hike in those favored areas, you will be rewarded by finding about 20 species in bloom. Most of those species will have only a single plant, or a handful of plants, in bloom. For example, Joe Woods found a single plant of Phacelia distans, common phacelia, and a single plant of Dithyrea californica, spectacle pod, in bloom on 13 January 2022 in Coyote Creek near First Crossing. Those were the only plants of each species he found in that area. But a small number of species, in favored areas, have a number of individuals in bloom, making for a very enjoyable flower hike.
In some areas, while the number of blooms is still not large, there are places where the plants look happy, such as the Coyote Creek / Box Canyon area.
The most glorious species in bloom right now is still probably Xylorhiza orcuttii, Orcutt's woody-aster, in the northern part of the Carrizo Badlands. We observed something like 50 plants with a number of big flowers in bloom, on a 5 mile hike east of the upper part of June Wash on 16 December 2021; see iNat posts of plants in bloom of this species since 1 December 2021 (there were 24 iNat observations between 1 December 2021 and 19 January 2021; you might see more if you click on this link after 19 January. Click on the "Map" tab to see locations of all the plants).
If you go to the right places and work at seeing them over a number of hikes, you can see quite a few species in bloom right now. There were 206 iNat observations of 69 species tagged as "flowering" in the five weeks between 1 January 2022 and 3 February 2022, with more being recorded as time goes by. The most common species you are likely to see in flower in the next few weeks are still the usual suspects of desert lavender, Condea emoryi; desert trumpet, Eriogonum inflatum; and sweetbush, Bebbia juncea.
See all the iNat observations of species tagged as being in bloom since 1 January 2022. Click on "Filters" in the upper right to change the date range. There may be additional observations of flowering plants after 3 February 2022 that we have not yet tagged. Remember that many, and likely most, of these species in bloom are represented by only a single individual, or a small number of individuals, in most places.
Click on the "Map" tab at the link and you can zoom into the map to see where the reports are. Once you zoom into a given area, click on the "Redo search in map" to find out how many flower observations there are in your zoomed area. 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, which have a different symbol on the map and wildly inaccurate coordinates from the obscuration).
See also previous bloom reports from this season.
Bloom Reports from Individual Hikes This Season
The latest bloom reports are given first (i.e., the reports are in inverse order of time). As detailed immediately above, you can see a map of where the hikes were from any linked iNat post of the species in bloom.
31 January 2022. Sanjiv Nanda reports that plants look very happy in the Coyote Creek area from Second to Third Crossing, and then up Box Canyon. He saw a beautiful garden in one spot of heartleaf suncup, several large "bushes" of rock daisy, and plants of Phacelia pedicellata. There was also a glorious bloom of bladder pods. However, annual germination was very limited.
30 January 2022. Nancy Accola, Tom Chester, Don Rideout, and Jim Roberts report seeing widespread native annual germination, almost entirely under shrubs and at the base of sandy banks, in Plum Canyon from S22 to the saddle overlook of Shelter Valley. The ocotillos had green leaves, and most of the plants looked happy. Still, we saw only eight species in bloom, and only one of those species, chuparosa, had a number of individual plants in bloom, but only in small numbers of blooms per plant.
25 January 2022. Nancy Accola, Tom Chester, Beth Cobb, and Don Rideout found only eight species in bloom hiking 2.2 unique miles in the "Pholisma Branch" of Mine Canyon, the south tributary of Mine Wash that is not the usual one explored by most people. We were very surprised at how dry the entire area was from SR78 to our turn-around point in Mine Canyon. There was limited germination at our parking area at the junction of the two upper branches of Mine Canyon, which did include some native annuals. However, most of the germination we saw on our hike was of non-native red brome at the base of the shady banks of the Canyon.
21 January 2022. Nancy Accola, Tom Chester, and Don Rideout report finding just one or two plants each of only eight species in bloom on a 3.5 mile loop in what is called the "Eco-camps" area between Blair Valley and Box Canyon. Germination there was somewhat scattered, mostly the first germinators, non-natives, Erodium cicutarium and grasses. But there were quite a number of rosettes of our native Plagiobothrys arizonicus.
16 January 2022. Tom Chester and Don Rideout report finding just one or two plants each of only five species in bloom (see iNat obs of four of them), in the first 2.5 miles of the Villager Peak Trail. No germination was observed, and almost all of the plants there looked to be in their summer dormant state, with not a single ocotillo having leaves.
12 January 2022. Tom Chester, Don Rideout, and Jim Roberts found widespread annual native germination in Henderson Canyon, from late December 2021 rainfall! Nearly all of the ocotillos here, and on our drive along the Montezuma Grade, had just leafed out. In the lower canyon, native baby annuals were much more abundant than non-natives, with white fiesta flower, Pholistoma membranaceum, the most widespread and abundant species, followed by common phacelia, Phacelia distans. Unfortunately, in the southwest upper tributary, the entire hillside was filled with non-native red brome. It had germinated from the October rains, and was now crowding out any native annuals that might try to germinate from the December rains. We found only four species in bloom; see three iNat observations of two of them.
7 January 2022. Tom Chester, Don Rideout, Jim Roberts, Gaylee Rogers, and Steve Rogers surveyed the first 3.2 miles of Lower Smuggler Wash north of S22 in the Vallecito Valley area, finding just nine species in bloom.
26 December 2021. Tom Chester and Don Rideout report that plants in Henderson Canyon are still in late summer mode, with very little signs of life. There was at least some moisture in the sand there, from the rain a few days ago, but it was far too early for the plants to have responded to it. On our entire 7 mile roundtrip hike, we saw only 6 plants of 4 species in bloom: 1 chuparosa; 1 desert lavender; 2 plants of Stephanomeria pauciflora; and 2 plants of the last flowers of Eriogonum wrightii nodosum.
20 December 2021. Tom Chester, Birgit Knorr, Don Rideout, and Joe Woods reported 13 species in bloom on a loop going up the wash above Palm Spring, and returning via the View of the Badlands Wash. Stephanomeria pauciflora was blooming nearly throughout our hike, and we saw a small amount of germination in one spot. Otherwise, the plants looked very dry and dormant.
16 December 2021. Tom Chester, Walt Fidler, Don Rideout, Jim Roberts, and Joe Woods hiked one of the favored places with a number of plants in bloom, doing a loop in June Wash and the Carrizo Badlands. The iNat people posted 28 observations of 18 species in bloom, out of the 23 species seen in bloom. The star of the show was a large number of happy plants of Xylorhiza orcuttii with their big, beautiful blooms.
15 December 2021. Walt Fidler reported seeing 23 species in bloom in his survey of June Wash.
10 December 2021. Ted Caragozian, Tom Chester, Sharon Gott, Don Rideout, Jim Roberts, Gaylee Rogers, and Steve Rogers report finding 17 species in flower, doing a loop from a pullout on the Glorietta Canyon dirt road. We went up the small wash at that location, and came down the larger wash from "Salazaria Canyon". The latter wash was one of the favored places that got decent October rainfall, and kept it stored in its sand. The iNat people posted 24 observations of 17 species in bloom, plus a Matelea parvifolia!
5 December 2021. Ted Caragozian, Tom Chester, Don Rideout, and Jim Roberts botanized the California Riding and Hiking Trail from S22 to Pena Spring. Only a small number of plants of three species were in bloom on the trail, Eriastrum sapphirinum, Lessingia glandulifera, and Eriogonum elongatum. A surprise highlight of this trip was to find a small number of fully-blooming plants at Pena Spring! We posted 12 observations of 12 species in bloom from this trip.
7 November 2021. Nancy Accola, Tom Chester, Jeff Field, Sanjiv Nanda, Don Rideout, and Jim Roberts found a good bloom in the Culp Valley Campground area, with Pectis and some other plants still blooming nicely despite the time since the monsoonal and October rain. The blooms diminished on the California Riding and Hiking Trail, but the iNat observers posted 16 observations of 13 species in bloom from this trip.
26 October 2021. Michael Charters, Tom Chester, Walt Fidler, Don Rideout found that the good blooms reported by Carla Hoegen and Fred Melgert on 2 October 2021, from summer monsoonal rain in the Mason Valley area near the Oriflamme Road, have persisted, 24 days later! Don posted 28 observations of species in bloom from this trip! The bloom was in part due to a burn of part of this area in May 2021. See also Michael Charters' Photo Gallery from this trip.
28-29 August 2021. Lucinda McDade reports:In Borrego Springs, it looks like it has not rained in ages. As you come out of the canyon (?Yaqui Pass), there is almost a sharp line between ocotillos with leaves and those that look like they have not had leaves in ages.
At Scissors Crossing, can confirm your report that there is little in the way of annuals germinating / up despite clear indication of rain. To what you saw, I can add Krameria in flower and one very happy Physalis crassifolia. Wonder what magical combo of things caused such a massive germination of Boerhavia? They are having a great year!
At the Blair Valley camp area: The Senna are awesome and there were lots of Allionia. Boerhavia in abundance and some probable Mirabilis laevis that were just starting to put out inflorescences. A Ferocactus had decided to flower (across from the camp - on the rocky slope with the Senna). Near the camp itself, adjacent to what had been a large muddy patch where a few yahoos had enjoyed trying to drive their vehicles, there was a very large patch of Hoffmannseggia glauca just coming into flower. That, for me, was the trip highlight - have always loved that plant.
19 August 2021. Tom Chester, Nancy Accola, and Jim Roberts surveyed a route along SR76, SR79, and S2 from the Lake Henshaw area to Vallecito Station County Park, stopping where we saw patches of green from recent plant growth, or where we saw flowers. We saw over 1,000 plants in bloom of at least 40 species; see the list using scientific names, or the list using common names.
Fig. 1 shows two of the showiest species we found in bloom, Proboscidea althaeifolia, desert unicorn plant; and Senna covesii, desert senna.
Unfortunately, biting bugs, perhaps "no-see-ums" since the bugs themselves were not obvious, were also present in most of these locations, as well as some annoying bugs in places that had to be hand-waved away repeatedly. Tom received at least nine bites that produced angry red bumps the next day, mostly in areas under my t-shirt and shorts. Nancy reported a similar number of bites, despite wearing long sleeves and long pants. These bugs almost always accompany monsoonal annuals in bloom in our area.
We also observed a large area where essentially all the ocotillos had leafed out. See Fig. 2.
What was surprising is that the location with the highest reported rain total, 2.5 inches at Scissors Crossing on 10 August 2021, had zero annual germination! There was evidence of significant recent water flow there, so it is a mystery why no summer annuals germinated there so far. Also, four locations within the area where all the ocotillos had leafed out also had very poor annual germination.
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.
All iNaturalist observations in the Borrego Desert since 1 August 2021 (click on "Filters" to change the dates; there were 67 observations of 36 species post as of 21 August 2021.)
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 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 © 2008-2022 by Tom Chester, Don Rideout, and Jim Roberts.
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Updated 3 February 2022