Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Brilliance in the Desert

Well, the predictions for brilliant color appearing in the desert north of Phoenix this spring have hit the mark.

We continue our hike through Cave Creek Regional Park (just north of Phoenix) that we began yesterday.

Janice Emily Bowers notes that "it's hard to predict exactly when the desert will bloom--or if it will. . . . When the desert blooms abundantly,
it is a sight never to be forgotten.

In such springs, when the usual drab greens, grays, and tans of the desert are blanketed by a patchwork of magenta, blue, orange, white, and yellow, it's hard to remember how the desert looks most of the time."

In her book, 100 Desert Wildflowers, Bowers asks: "Why does the desert bloom so sporadically? If the soil is too dry because not enough rain has fallen, the wildflower seeds will not germinate. If the soil is moist, but the winter has been too cold or too warm, they will not germinate either or will germinate only in low numbers.

During some years, the combination of moisture and temperature is just right for certain wildflowers but not for others. In other years a small area will burst into gorgeous bloom while the surrounding countryside is relatively barren.

But in the finest years, when the temperature and rainfall requirements of many species have (at long last) been fulfilled, entire counties seem a mass of bloom.

It's said that such an ideal year comes once every three or four decades."

We certainly cannot determine if this year is that "ideal" year, but the number and brilliance of the flowers shown here, including the desert marigold (left) are impressive--and some of the flowers have not bloomed yet.

The flowers of a couple of varieties of cactus were approaching blooming. The cholla (buckhorn cholla, I think) is quite striking even now.

The flowers of the ocotillo are a stop on the migration route of hummingbirds.

Bowers observes that "spring wildflowers have also adapted to the desert by growing only during the time of year when most of us love to be in the desert.

Like tourists who leave the desert as soon as the weather turns hot, wildflowers, too, give up once spring is past."

Really changes our image of the desert as the barren home of tumbleweeds.

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