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. Left: turpentine plant, Thamnosma montana, on 13 February 2022. Right: Bigelow's Monkey Flower, Diplacus bigelovii, on 13 February 2022. Both pix by Don Rideout. Click on the pix to go to the iNat posts of these plants.
Latest Summary of Bloom Status
Summary as of 15 February 2022
The number of species in bloom is climbing fairly rapidly now with time, as is typical for mid-February. However, this is so far among the least-floriferous "good" years in the last 20 years, with only ~17 species in bloom seen on each recent trip, up from counts in the single digits in our January trips. A "good" year is one in which we have a decent number of flowers, compared to "bad" years in which few flowers are found.
In an average year, we would see about 40 to 50 species in bloom per trip in mid-February, and in the best years, we would see 60 to 80 species in bloom on each trip then. See plot of the number of species in bloom per trip versus date for seven previous years from 2008 to 2015 (see also additional plots and background information on the plots).
Note that even in years like this, we still expect to see about 60 to 80 species in bloom per trip in March.
We are grateful that we have species in bloom in places west of Borrego Springs! At least this is not a severe-drought "bad" year there. But it is a very bad year in most of the desert floor east of Borrego Springs, where there aren't any annuals at all, due to a lack of enough rainfall to germinate their seeds. Even in Borrego Springs, there is no germination at all in the hairy sunflower, Geraea canescens, field along Henderson Canyon Road just west of the Pegleg Monument. The end of the pavement of Di Giorgio Road appears just as desolate, but close inspection finds some very tiny annual germination has occurred there. If there is no further rain, no one will even notice the tiny flowers those tiny plants will produce.
West of Borrego Springs, and at similar elevations south to Mason Valley and Rainbow Canyon, the first flowers are starting to appear on the small annuals that germinated in the late December rain, including Bigelow's monkeyflower, Diplacus bigelovii; purple mat, Nama demissa, and desert dandelion, Malacothrix glabrata. There are still a small number of much bigger plants that germinated from the October rains in a limited number of places, such as a few large rock daisy, Perityle emoryi, plants at Second Crossing and the Box Canyon north of Third Crossing.
Some shrubs are producing a very nice show. Desert apricot, Prunus fremontii, was in beautiful full bloom along S22 from just east of the west Park Entrance at Ranchita, down to the top of the Montezuma Grade on 4 February 2022. It was also in full bloom along S2 in the San Felipe Valley on 30 January 2022. Although the peak bloom for this species in those places is winding down, a number of plants there are still in showy bloom, and the bloom for it in other areas is just starting. For example, it was just beginning its bloom in Plum Canyon on 30 January 2022.
Turpentine broom, Thamnosma montana, is unexpectedly producing a very nice bloom in the upper Smuggler Canyon area, which might be related to good monsoonal rain in that area; see Fig. 1. Some plants are completely covered with bloom.
Bladderpods are in good bloom in Sentenac Gorge along SR78, and in the Second Crossing of Coyote Creek / Box Canyon area.
Fishhook cactus, Mammillaria dioica, has been blooming since 29 January 2022, and has been observed in bloom in a number of locations. It should continue to be in bloom for some time.
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 236 iNat observations of 81 species tagged as "flowering" in the three weeks between 25 January 2022 and 15 February 2022, with more being recorded as time goes by. Which species you see in bloom on your hike is largely determined by where you hike and how far you hike. Many species are restricted to a certain elevation range, or location.
See all the iNat observations of species tagged as being in bloom since 25 January 2022. Click on "Filters" in the upper right to change the date range. There may be additional observations of flowering plants after 15 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.
13 February 2022. Tom Chester, Don Rideout, Jim Roberts, and Abbyann Sisk found 17 native species in bloom on the Pictograph Trail and in Upper Smuggler Canyon. The star of the show was Thamnosma montana, with over 50 plants in full bloom. We were also delighted to see about ten plants of Acmispon rigidus in bloom, and three plants of Diplacus bigelovii with their first flowers. Don posted pix of 7 of the 17 species found in bloom.
8 February 2022. Tom Chester, Jeff Field, Don Rideout, and Jim Roberts found 16 species in bloom on a hike in Lower Smuggler Wash north of S2, 13 of which were posted at iNat.
4 February 2022. Nancy Accola, Tom Chester, Jeff Field, Don Rideout, Jim Roberts, Gaylee Rogers, Steve Rogers, and Joe Woods followed in Sanjiv Nanda's footsteps in the Coyote Creek area from Second to Third Crossing, and then up Box Canyon. Second Crossing has some beautiful plants of Encelia farinosa, and the area to its immediate west has very good germination of most of our beloved native annuals. Annual germination is spotty going up Box Canyon. Thanks to the presence of flowing water in Coyote Creek, we saw 14 species in bloom, finally breaking the ten species mark.
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 good bloom of bladder pods.
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 15 February 2022