Earlier this week, while camping in northern Arizona in the Coconino National Forest, I had the fortunate chance to witness the birth of an evening primrose flower as it slowly unfurled from its green bud at dusk. We watched a first bloom for almost 45 minutes; a second one nearby took less than 7 minutes to open. It was one of the most beautiful natural events I’ve ever seen.

If you’d like to see it too, check out the video I just posted of the second bloom at 2x real time speed (so it’s about 3 minutes long) – enjoy!

The evening primrose were well past peak and at the end of their season. Only a few buds remained on Monday, and it’s likely those have already bloomed.

That said, we’ve heard reports that areas near Mormon Lake (location 12 in the Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers (2nd Ed.) guidebook) are fields of gold right now…

Thistle

Arizona wildflowers are moving into the high desert as the cactus and tree bloom starts in the lower deserts.

Great locations to shoot right now:

#42 Forest Service Road 419: Peak for sego lilies and owl clover.  Strawberry hedgehog cactus and globemallow should peak in the next week.

#43 Black Mesa: Banana yucca, blackfoot daisies and thistle looking good now.

#50 Pinal Parkway and #52 Ironwood Forest National Monument:  Good buckhorn cholla and palo verde bloom starting.

Enjoy and have a great shoot out there everyone.

Sego Lilies

#14 Oatman: Just past bloom but ready for brittlebush and beavertail cactus next few weeks.

#15 Tres Alamos: I have not seen it but reports of Joshua trees blooming.

#17 The Gibraltar Mountain: Area is peaking now. Best in the past 15 years!

#20 Lake Pleasant Regional Park:  A once a decade bloom is underway.

#21 White Tank Mountain Regional Park: Getting ready for the brittlebush bloom.

#25 Bartlett Lake: At peak Mexican gold poppy bloom now and is the best showing in a decade. Lupine are a foot tall on the high slopes and lots of other wildflowers to fill in the open spaces. That’s not even the good news! Bartlett is 1-2 weeks away from an epic brittlebush bloom. If we get rain we could see a 1998 double bloom the hillsides will be covered in gold and yellow with some red chuparosa. Try Horseshoe Lake if you want to miss the crowds. The hillsides on the west side of the road are looking good.

#45 The Rolls: Bloom is good but the area has been invaded by ORV’s who have cut down the protective fences.

#59 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: Good brittlebush bloom starting.

In other areas not listed in our Wild in Arizona guidebook, there are good orange globemallow carpets west of Gila Bend along the river.  Also, just received a “getting close to dune blooms” report on Mohawk dunes.

PAUL GILL: The Estrella Mountain Park is starting to show carpets of poppies high on the northern slopes of the Rainbow Valley Trail. Start at the Rodeo Arena Parking lot and hike west. The best wildflowers are located about a half to a mile in, with lupine and fiddleneck already at one foot tall! This area should be great in one to two weeks with the recent rains that will double the bloom stalks and give solid midday carpets of poppies. Also look for a brittlebush and strawberry hedgehog to begin blooming in three to four weeks.  All photographs on this post are from this week.
 
BRUCE TALBERT: The White Tank Mountain Regional Park (location #21 in the Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers guidebook) looked OK.  There were enough poppies blooming to keep your attention but little else.  There were a few lupines but sparse and small.  The best areas were the first 1/2 mile of Mesquite Trail west of Area 7, the west side of White Tank Mountain Road near Area 3, and the trails that lead west of Area 3.  The brittlebush showed small flower buds and looked healthy, but were not yet flowering.  They will likely present a better show here than the poppies.

Arizona_Vermilion Cliffs_00102_c

Happy Earth Day, everyone!  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Earth laughs in flowers.”  Based on what I saw up in Marble Canyon last week, the planet must be in hysterics!

Following a tip-off last from my good friends, Terry and Wendy Gunn of Cliff Dwellers Lodge, I visited the Marble Canyon area last Wednesday through Monday to chase what they had referred to as a “bloom of a decade.”  They were spot on!  Although the weather was a bit unsettled last week (stormy and windy), the flowers absolutely did not disappoint!

Extensive fields of full desert globemallow and prickly pear cactus are peaking right now south of Highway 89A near the Soap Creek and Badger Creek overlooks (several gates into BLM land provide access – 2WD high-clearance recommended for these roads).  New flowers like Prince’s plume, sego lilies, banana yuccas, and scorpionweed are starting to pop up as well in varying quantities.  With a little dab of rain, even more flowers will start to show in the next week or so.  Although I didn’t have time to scout, the locals suggested the bloom could extend as far west as House Rock Valley Road.

We also meandered upstream along the Paria River from the Lees Ferry area in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, where we spotted multiple species of prickly pear in full bloom (with ample buds still waiting to pop), globemallow, banana yucca, and more during our easy hike.

As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s a great time to remind everyone to practice “Leave No Trace” principles as you’re out enjoying the wildflowers.  Please watch you step out there so that others can enjoy the blooms as well.

Happy wildflower hunting!
Colleen

Albino white poppy at Bartlett Lake

Albino white poppy at Bartlett Lake on Sunday, March 15, 2015

I had heard mixed feedback on what was happening out at Bartlett Lake for wildflowers, so I decided to take a quick spin up there yesterday morning to see for myself and to form my own.

Brittlebush at Bartlett Lake on Sunday, March 15, 2015

Brittlebush at Bartlett Lake on Sunday, March 15, 2015

How good the bloom is up there depends on your perspective.  If you’ve never seen wildflowers before in the desert, you’ll likely be impressed. If you experience the 2005 or the 2009 bloom you might be slightly underwhelmed.  Regardless, enough flowers are blooming to make it worth a visit now and within the next two weeks.

Along Bartlett Dam Road, keep your eyes open for nice patches of smaller Mexican gold poppies dotting the hillsides starting around milepost 8 to milepost 11 on the north side of the street.  After milepost 10 (but before milepost 11, near the Tonto National Forest sign), a vibrant patch of sizable poppies is already peaking.  In this same area, the flanks of the cliffs are starting to show blankets of yellow.

Because a fair number of these poppy fields face east, you might not spot them as you drive in (but will be blatantly obvious on the drive out).  So either bring a driver to free you up to scout or glance over your shoulder occasionally as you come into this area so as to not miss some great photographic opportunities.

Perennials like brittlebush, chuparosa, and fairy duster are out in force, but it looks as if there’s even more to come in the weeks ahead.  A nice patch of lupine appears along Bartlett Dam Road near the turnoff for Forest Service Road 459 on the shoulder as well as along FSR 459 near the Rattlesnake Cove turnoff.  A handful of chia, cream cups, filaree, and desert marigolds round out the showing.

Multiple blooms on strawberry hedgehog cactus in South Mountain Park on Sunday

Multiple blooms on strawberry hedgehog cactus in South Mountain Park on Sunday

If poppies are what you seek, I’d recommend heading that way within the next week. Perennials making a good start and will look great (if not better) over the next two weeks. For more information about Bartlett Lake, check out page 96 in our first edition of the “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers” book (the second edition should start shipping on Monday, March 23!).

I also hiked the Telegraph Pass Trail in South Mountain Park and Preserve on Sunday afternoon.  Overall the desert landscape presented few flowers on the ground, but on the lower elevations of this trail, the strawberry hedgehog and cholla cacti displayed impressive color.  Some strawberry hedgehog cacti showcased 8-12 beautiful blooms!  Probably have about a week left to see these splashes of color there.

Happy wildflower hunting,
Colleen

Closeup of Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus along Telegraph Pass Trail on Sunday

Closeup of Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus along Telegraph Pass Trail on Sunday

Poppies and Beavertail

Wildflowers are showing in the Warm Springs Wilderness. Wild in Arizona book, location 14, page 64. Poppies, Lupine, and Beavertail Cactus are in bloom now. Brittlebush about two weeks away. The flowers are on the north west slopes in three canyons. (see map in book) road is high clearance now, and 4×4 is a good idea. Organ Pipe is not having a good bloom yet, report back when the brittle bush starts. Buckskin and Gibraltar have a few wildflowers with Cactus coming on strong in the next few weeks.

Warm Springs Wilderness

The rains last week have given already blooming areas like the Peridot Mesa a second wind. There is also a good bladderpod carpets between Safford and Clifton. You will need to jump barbwire fences and hike to the hillsides if you want the poppies. There is a nice carpet of poppies on the south side of 70 around San Jose but will need to jump fences which I don’t suggest not knowing who owns that land.

The Black Hills Byway also has some wildflowers now and the Rockhound area off 191 is good for bladderpod.
Arizona_Peridot Mesa_00002_c

Photographed on February 25, 2015, the Mexican gold poppies bloom in abundance on top of Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Indian Reservation, Arizona

If Mexican gold poppies are what you seek, then drop everything this instant and RUN – don’t walk! – to Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Indian Reservation.

Paul and I had heard substantiated rumors from a couple friends (thanks Ron and Lori!) of “fields and fields of poppies” in this location.  Based on when the flowers normally bloom here (mid-March), it seemed a little early, but the weather has been warm until recently.  I took my camera and curiosity out to Peridot Mesa yesterday.  And oh my!  The hillsides were covered with poppies!

Mainly poppies, but also some blue dicks, lupine, and budding globemallow, blanketed the basin in between Peridot Mesa and Peridot Hills.  With the cooler temperatures, the poppies began closing up quite early (about 2 hours before ‘sunset). As a couple walking the dirt road at sunset suggested, “The flowers have been sleeping [i.e., closing early] for three days in the cold.”

Arizona_Peridot Mesa_00001_cIn sampling a number of clusters, it appears there are just as many buds waiting to bloom as there are flowers in bloom.  Also, in surveying the ground, the lupine, blue dicks, globemallow, and other flowers are just starting to show.  With this in mind – even though it looks stunning now – I think this location has yet to officially peak.  Now, that said, forecasters are predicting 85-100% chance of rain in Phoenix starting Saturday and lasting through Tuesday.  A heavy rain could damage the delicate and dainty poppy blooms, but could encourage the other blooms to continue their progress.

We added Peridot Mesa to our expanded 2nd edition of our book, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers.”  We are finishing the proofing process as we speak, but here’s a sneak peak of location #48: Peridot Mesa in case you wish to put it to good use immediately - please practice “Leave No Trace” principles and do not trample the flowers so that others may enjoy this beautiful site as well.

(Note: more wildflower updates after the sample)

48_Peridot Mesa_Sample

Click on photo to see the sample page full size (and save to your computer and/or print for reference).

In addition to Peridot Mesa, we are hearing consistent reports that wildflowers are showing off in Picacho Peak State Park (location #53 in 1st edition; #51 in 2nd edition).

En route to the San Carlos Indian Reservation, I noted that Silly Mountain (location #32 in 1st and 2nd editions) is staring to display some yellow on the brittlebush at higher elevations.  I’d check this spot out in a week or so.

We’ve heard things are just starting at Catalina State Park (#55/#53) and at Pipeline Canyon Trail/Lake Pleasant (#21/20) so keep an eye on those two spots in the weeks ahead via the 2015 Arizona State Parks Ranger Cam (which they did not turn on for 2014′s bloom) at azstateparks.com/RangerCam2015 and DesertUSA’s Wildflower reports at www.desertusa.com/wildflo/wildupdates.html.

Finally, while driving along Highway 93 last week, on Monday, I saw a healthy amount of Joshua tree blooms along the road.  On my way back through the area on Thursday afternoon, almost all the blooms had disappeared and were replaced by blackened, dead stalks.  We can’t explain the short-lasting bloom nor determine if additional blooms will appear, but from last week’s observations, the Joshua tree bloom might have happened and ended within a week’s time frame last week.

Happy wildflower hunting and shooting!

~Colleen

Arizona_Peridot Mesa_00003_c

With the monsoon in full swing, I took a spin through Flagstaff last Friday afternoon to check on the status of the wildflowers in a number of spots.  Sorry, I don’t have any notable photos to share (as I was racing to get home to Chandler – a mere 2.5-hour drive – after a 21-day road trip to the Pacific Northwest…), but I was eager to pass along what I saw nonetheless!

Bonito Park (Wild in Arizona book location # 7):  I spotted just a handful of sunflowers in bloom in the field, with some immature plants waiting to bud.  Although it didn’t seem like there were enough budding to create a wide spread bloom, it is a touch early in the season for this area to show.  Scattered wild geranium, yellow wall flower, and common mullein are currently adding a splash of color to the green. Arizona skyrockets are also starting to pop up on north side of street in forested area.

Along Highway 89 (near Copeland Lane specifically):  Fields of Rocky Mountain beeplant await those with a telephoto lens.  If you decide to stop to photograph in this area, though, please respect private property and fences.

Lower Lake Mary:  Swaths of calliopsis are blooming along the dry lake bed, particularly in the middle and southern sections.  Abundant budding plants along the implied shoreline indicated this spot is just getting warmed up too! I also saw a nice patch of butter and eggs in forest.

Upper Lake Mary:  Unlike Lower Lake Mary, it’s neighbor to the south is still holding water despite the warmer summer temperatures.  Like Lower Lake Mary, this area is already showcasing ribbons of calliopsis along east and west shoreline. Healthy blankets of yellow grace the Narrows nearby as well.  Stay north or far south of day use area to avoid getting swimmers in your shot.

Ashurst Lake (Wild in Arizona book location #13):  With the abundance of calliopsis on both Lake Mary’s, I had high expectations for wide spread bloom at nearby Ashurst Lake.  After enduring a more-than-normal washboardy ride along Forest Service Road 82E (which is still passable to passenger cars, just expect a massage en route), the meadows showed zippo.  Scattered water smartweed is blooming early along the lake’s southern shoreline, but the water level is a solid 5-10 feet away from the plants and I don’t know how big of a bloom these water-loving plants will do without sitting closer (in) water if the lake remains so low.

Mormon Lake (Wild in Arizona book location #12): The lake is dry, but calliopsis is abundant in the field along the southern shoreline.  A smatterings of Indian paintbrush starting to make an appearance near both formal overlooks.

Note that in the Lake Mary, Ashurst Lake, and Mormon Lake area, smoke from the Bar M fire filled the air on Friday.  Burnout activities continue, so the smoke will lessen as time passes.

In other news – and for additional guidance on some of these areas listed above - AAA Highroads magazine featured our article “Put the Petal to the Nettle:  Take a Drive on the Wildflower Side of Flagstaff” in their most recent issue (July/August 2014).  If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, visit http://highroads.az.aaa.com/magazine and click on View Full Issue.  We’re on magazine page 20-21 (digital edition page 22-23).  Enjoy!

Happy shooting!
~Colleen

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