Southwestern Region

Spectacular Wildflower Displays Expected in the Southwest in the Spring of 2010

A collage of southwest wildflowers.
Good winter moisture will bring a great wildflower show to the Southwest in the spring of 2010. Photos by Rosemary Pendleton.

Desert wildflower display along U.S. Highway 60 east of Phoenix, Arizona.
Ocotillos, chollos, saguaros, paloverdes, and spring wildflowers! Some of the desert wildflower display along U.S. Highway 60 east of Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Kim Vander Hoek.

Because abundant rainfall fell throughout much of the Southwest during the winter of 2009/2010, we are expecting spectacular spring wildflower displays to treat us with their beauty. This above average moisture level is courtesy of El NiƱo, a weather phenomenon in the tropical Pacific Ocean that occurs about every 5-7 years.

Spring wildflowers - mostly annuals - will start blooming in the low deserts in early March, with peak blooming in April and early May at higher elevations. Many different wildflowers will be on glorious view. Whole hillsides will often be awash in the color of a single species.

Flowers in blue, yellow, orange, white, and many shades in between will all be on display. Some of the most abundant species will be California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), purplemat (Nama demissum), desertbells (Phacelia campanularia), verbena (Glandularia spp.), bladderpod (Physaria spp.), and evening primrose (Oenothera spp.).

Be sure to take your camera!

Purplemat.
The flowers of purplemat and other close relatives in the genus Nama are tiny, but together they can turn whole hillsides blue. Photo by Rosemary Pendleton.

Paperflower.
Paperflower (Psilostrophe spp.) will bloom all summer if rains come at the right time. Paperflower gets its name because the flowers dry to a brownish papery texture and persist on the plant after flowering. Photo by Rosemary Pendleton.

Mock vervain.
Mock vervain, also called wild verbena (Glandularia spp.), is one of the most common spring wildflowers in the Southwest. Photo by Rosemary Pendleton.