Brand new Mexican gold poppy

Brand new Mexican gold poppy (wearing its “winter hat”) along the Dynamite Trail in San Tan Mountain Regional Park.

As a proud member of the “Poppy-razzi” (definition: “one who enjoys chasing wildflowers, especially poppies, and potentially to obsessive levels…”), it’s exhilarating to find your first poppy of the new season.  And how exciting it was to see them yesterday as we hiked in the San Tan Mountain Regional Park!

While I was wrapping up my artist-in-residency in Acadia National Park in Maine, my non-photographer parents had gone for a hike last week, and sent me a text message with photos of a brilliant golden blooms along the Dynamite Trail within the park.  It seemed strange that this area would start blooming so early – typically starts in early March – but their iPhone snaps showed it would be worth a visit to see for myself right now.

Show me the lupine!

“Show me the lupine!” Along the Dynamite Trail in the San Tan Mountain Regional Park, captured on Sunday, February 24, 2013.

Though we started our hike yesterday morning on the  Moonlight Trail and San Tan Trails – where the ground was very green with splashes of tiny filaree, popcorn flower, fiddleneck, and other wildflower sprouts as well as grasses – it wasn’t until we walked about 10 minutes along the Dynamite Trail that we finally saw a handful of poppies scattered across the west-facing slopes.  Because of the cold weather, their petals were still curled in tightly even at noon.  The dirt and rocky trail also displayed a handful of just-budding lupine and fiddleneck.

With warming temperatures and plenty of sun in the forecast for the next two weeks, this area could start producing large quantities of wildflowers easily over the next month or so.  Mark your calendar to catch two upcoming one-hour ranger led programs about wildflowers at the San Tan Mountain Regional Park on March 9 at 10 am and March 23 at 11 am ($6 entry fee per vehicle or pass required).

The Dynamite Trail is easily accessed by parking at the Goldmine Trailhead on the far north side of the park.  Follow the Goldmine Trail a quick 0.2 miles (0.4 km), then turn right on the Dynamite Trail.  After walking up the hill and around the first bend, keep your eyes peeled for wildflowers on either side of the trail.

You can also find more information about the San Tan Mountain Regional Park in our guidebook, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, and How” on page 108-109.

Ice on Fiddleneck in the Lost Dutchman State Park.  Photo copyright Paul Gill.

Paul’s also been out and about recently, where he’s seen lots of fiddleneck and wild onion just starting to bloom around the Superstitions.  Brittle bush are showing early color roadside along the Apache Trail (pages 158-161).  Saguaro Lake is starting to see some poppies, particularly in the aptly-named “The Rolls” area.   Down south, the Sutherland Trail in Catalina State Park north of Tucson is a good bet for early blooms.

The snow fall down to 2000′ last week did not do any real damage and will help with the perennial wildflowers later in March.  Here are a couple photos from Paul from the snow storm last week at the Lost Dutchman State Park.

Snow on green hills in Lost Dutchman State Park.  Photo copyright Paul Gill.

11 Responses to “Arizona Wildflower Field Report: February 25, 2013”

  1. Poppies are appearing in residential areas here and there in Litchfield Park. I planned to head to White Tanks soon to check out likely spots. Hoping for more in the Estrella Mountain this year. I saw one very small one in a wash last year, having hiked nearly 80 miles total in the park that month.

  2. Thanks for the update, I’ll be out and about tomorrow. Not sure where yet, still researching locations.

  3. Nothing in the east Superstitions yet, I visited several of the locations in your book.

  4. Anyone know if anything is happening in the Vekol Valley yet? I’d like to shoot the bladderpod mustard when it comes out.


  5. Hello Colleen,
    I am trying to book a flight to the area of Organ Pipe and Picacho Peak to shoot the poppies and cactus.. I know there is no way to tell me the best time but if you would have to make a guess would you say the last week of March or sometime in April.. I would really really appreciate any advice – thanks Colleen !!

    • Hi Kevin!

      Paul took a spin through Organ Pipe Cactus NM last week, and suggested in our last blog post ( that it’s a “no-show” for flowers this year. Typically, we see a bloom start there in late February, peaking the first or second week in March…nothing’s going on there right now.

      Picacho Peak typically peaks around the 2nd-4th week in March. I’ve not seen it with my own eyes, but a report from the Arizona State Parks Ranger Cam on Feb. 27th ( suggested they were starting to see scattered poppies then…it’s raining right now here in Phoenix and we’re scheduled to see a quick warm-up early next week, so the desert could explode into whatever color it has in store for us starting then. Definitely a spot to watch in the next couple of weeks…

      While we might not have many poppies left by then, late March and early April should bring a very nice brittle bush, globemallow, early cactus, and other perennials bloom so if that’s when you’re considering your visit, I think you’ll have plenty to shoot in the desert.

      Keep us posted if you do decide to visit. Happy to give you the latest report on good locations, and perhaps our paths might cross out there? Would be awesome to meet you!

      Happy shooting!

  6. I went to Lake Pleasant today to shoot along the Pipeline Canyon Trail. I was so excited driving on Hwy 74 with lupine, desert globemallow and brittle bush all blooming. Along the trail I found poppies, lupine, blue dicks and fiddleneck all blooming. Strangely the brittle bush and desert globemallow were not in bloom. The poppies, lupine and blue dick look to be at peak. There were a few desert globemallow in bloom just before you cross the bridge along with a few blue dicks and the fiddleneck is just starting to bloom at this point on the trail.

    Hope this helpful to anyone thinking of going to Lake Pleasant!

    • Oh man, I must have just missed you Tamara! When were you there? We were at Lake Pleasant yesterday around noon for about two hours hiking along the Pipeline Canyon Trail. You’re spot on, the annuals are at peak (e.g. poppies) while the perennials (e.g. globemallow and brittlebush) are just about to start…glad to hear you’re getting out there and working it!

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