The Wild in Arizona team cordially invites you to join us for the opening reception of Paul Gill’s “Wildflower Photography Exhibition” this Saturday, April 1 from 2-4 p.m. at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, Arizona.

Stop by to view his breathtakingly beautiful 20 wildflower prints and chat with him about how he made his inspirational images. Paul suggests these photographs “..are some of my favorites from the past 25 years – from grand carpets of wildflowers in large landscapes to more intimate closeups, and getting inside the flowers unseen details.”  Read more about the exhibit at arboretum.ag.arizona.edu/paulgill.html. See more of Paul’s work on his website at paulgillphoto.com.

Paul will also be signing copies of his and Colleen Miniuk-Sperry’s award-winning guidebook, Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, & How.

And bring your camera to make your own images!  Boyce Thompson Arboretum is in full bloom with a plethora of flowers showing off in the Demonstration and Cactus gardens.  The grounds are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $12.50/person unless you possess an arboretum membership (which provides free entry).  For more information, visit arboretum.ag.arizona.edu/about_us.html.

We’ll see you at Boyce Thompson this Saturday!

Lost Dutchman_01_c

Lost Dutchman looking green for this time of year. Of the limited number that did sprout flowers this year, brittle bush and other perennial shrubs have already passed their peak bloom.

Well, the year of the poppy, it ain’t.  Following ample rain in November and average precipitation in December, the Phoenix area went almost 70 days without a drop of rain during a critical time for the spring wildflower bloom in the desert.  On top of the lack of rain, the low deserts have experienced significantly higher temperatures than normal.  So 2014 isn’t going to go into the record books for our spring bloom.

With the chance of a wide-spread display diminishing each day as fast as our much needed rains did this year, shutterbugs with a careful eye can pick out single blooms to practice their macro techniques out there!  Here’s what we’ve been seeing out there…

BTA_01_c

Healthy globe mallow from the parking lot of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum:  Ample globemallow and desert marigolds in the parking area.  Ice plants along entry walkway showing off pinks and purples while the aloe have sprouted their orange flowers.  The Demonstration Garden has some penstemon, blanket flower, and cactii in bloom, but it’s a smaller scale bloom than what we’re used to at this time of year.

Lost Dutchman:   Ocotillo and hedgehog cactus in bloom near the Saguaro Day Use area.  Brittlebush burned out.  (The ranger suggested some small flowers existed along the Jacob’s Crosscut Trail but I was leading a private workshop and wasn’t able to scout.)

San Tan Regional Mountain:  Ocotillo and a variety of cactus currently in bloom across the park.  Brittle bush past peak.

South Mountain: Specifically along the Pima Canyon & Bajada Trails, the brittle bush bloom is done while the ocotillo and hedgehog cacti are blooming now.

Gonzales Pass:  Palo verde trees showing off brilliant yellows in the median among ocotillo, globemallow, desert marigolds, and some brittle bush.

Silly Mountain:  Brittle bush not looking real promising…

Bartlett Lake:  Scattered brittle bush and globemallow hanging on, but looking pretty burned out otherwise.

Sun City area:  Thanks to the recent construction activities, a nice disturbance bloom of poppies and scorpionweed intermingling is currently happening near the intersection of the new 303 Expressway and Grand Avenue.

Let us know if you’ve seen anything great out there!

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the upcoming monsoon season (will it start early, given the shift in seasons??) will bring additional moisture to the entire state.  In addition, we’re watching the development of a possible El Nino closely.  The last Climate Prediction Center report suggested a 50% chance of an El Nino developing this summer or fall, so the verdict for this summer’s bloom is still out.  Stay tuned!

Happy shooting!

~Colleen & Paul

Paul_Lost Dog Trail_1

Scorpionweed and strawberry hedgehog cactus along the Lost Dog Wash Trail

Paul_Lost Dog Trail_2

Poppies along Lost Dog Wash Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

 

Lost Dog Wash Trail:  This trail, as well as other spots in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve takes the cake for peak Mexican gold poppy bloom right now.  According to Paul, who visited yesterday, “It’s screaming out there now!”  In addition to the pretty little yellow flowers, scorpionweed, lupine, and several cacti – including strawberry hedgehog and pincushion – are also showing their colors in this desert landscape.  For maps and trail information visit  www.scottsdaleaz.gov/Assets/Public+Website/preserve/TrailMaps.pdf

Bartlett Lake (location #26 in our “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers” book):  The impressive show here continues with fields of poppies across many of the hillsides into this area and along Service Road 459.  Though the abundant poppies on the hillsides around the saddle have peaked, last Saturday, there were still buds waiting to bloom north of the saddle (though not nearly in the same quantity as we saw near the saddle).  Typical for this location, a great mix of blooms are still going strong with cream cups, lupine, chia, chuparosa, and desert marigold being most abundant right now.  The brittlebush and globemallow are either budding or starting to show splashes of color.  Watch for the perennials to peak in 7-10 days here.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park (location #21):  Though the annual bloom of the Mexican gold poppy is in decline after a glorious show, plenty of flowers along the trail make a trip to the Pipeline Canyon Trail still worth the visit.  The perennial bloom of desert globemallow and brittlebush has picked up since last week, but could use a little more time to peak.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum (location #37): The Desert Garden in the Demonstration Garden filled with penstemon, lupine, coral aloe, and an array of other blooms. A walk down the Main Trail from the Visitor Center to the Cactus and Succulent Garden won’t disappoint, as there are Texas mountain laurels, penstemon, some Mexican gold poppies, scorpionweed, and even some early blooming claret cup cactus.

Silly Mountain (location #32):  Speeding by this location at 55 mph along Highway 60, the brittlebush high on the hillside appeared past peak, while the middle section looked at peak, and the flat bottom areas hadn’t even started blooming yet.  Despite the strange (silly?), tiered bloom, plenty of excellent photo ops still exist!

 

Silly Mountain Sunset

The brittlebush bloom at sunset at Silly Mountain, Arizona last Saturday

As expected, last week’s rain followed by a fairly intense warm-up in Arizona’s low desert has made the wildflower bloom progress nicely. I took a spin around to some of my favorite locations this time of year to scout for our upcoming “Wild for Wildflowers: Sonoran Desert” Arizona Highways Photography Workshop and was not disappointed! Here’s what I saw out there:

Flora-tude

A Mexican gold poppy demonstrating attitude – or “Flora-tude” at Lake Pleasant on Sunday

GO NOW – LOCATIONS AT PEAK:

  • Lake Pleasant: (location #21 in our “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers” book) This location is AT PEAK or just slightly beyond when it comes to annuals.  The entire hillside along the south end of the Pipeline Canyon Trail has burst into yellow with Mexican gold poppies and California poppies.  I even saw a handful of albino poppies on the west side of the trail – something I’ve never seen outside of Bartlett Lake!  There is a nice mix of other flowers, including lupine, blue dicks, scorpionweed, and fiddleneck.  A very nice stand of bright orange globemallow begs for some nice photographs just south of the Pipeline Bridge.  Though the poppies will only last another 7-10 days, the perennials like brittlebush are just starting to bud and show, so watch this location for the perennial bloom over the next two weeks.
  • Silly Mountain:  (location#32) The ridiculously silly brittlebush bloom on this hillside along the highway has started almost a week or two early and will peak likely this week.

KEEP AN EYE ON IN NEXT 7-10 DAYS:

Albino Mexican Gold Poppy

Albino Mexican Gold Poppy at Bartlett Lake on Sunday

  • Bartlett Lake:  (location #26)  The hillsides around the saddle area are looking spectacular right now – poppies, lupine, chuparosa, fiddleneck, cream cups, and chia.  Though the areas north of the saddle along Service Road 459 are definitely showing a solid wildflower bloom – including the white albino and pink poppies! – a stroll through the desert revealed many, many buds still waiting to bloom.  The shooting is great here right now, but I think this area will likely see peak in the next 7-10 days.  Lots of potential still!
  • Silver King Mine Road: (location #38):  Patches of poppies are evident along the east-facing mountain sides as you drive this recently graded dirt road.  A short hike up the hillside will get you to a relatively young patch of poppies.  A scattering of London rocket, fiddleneck, and lupine are also filling in.  The verdict is still out as to whether we’ll see a spectacular bloom here, but there’s enough going on to warrant putting it on the watch list.
  • Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park: (location #37)  Though not prolific yet, thus far, the Arboretum is showing perhaps the most diverse mix of desert blooms – poppies, globemallow, blue dicks, desert marigold, desert filaree, penstemon, popcorn flower, wild cucumber, and Mormon tea – along the Main Trail.  Though good for ample photographic opportunities now, I think this spot will continue to get even better in the weeks ahead.

FORGET IT – SAVE YOUR GAS & TIME:

  • Saddle Mountain:  (location #20)  Unless you’d like to see what the desert looks like in spring when it doesn’t get enough rain, skip this location this year.  There are a few scattered, tiny poppies, some scorpionweed and fiddlneck, three bladderpod mustard blooms, and a ton of small popcorn flower, which my husband suggested looked more like the bottom of the popcorn bag.  Better luck next year…

Have you been out photographing the wildflowers in Arizona?  Tell us what you’ve seen in your outings!  We’d love to hear from you!

~Colleen

Lupine and cream cups at Bartlett Lake

Lupine and cream cups at Bartlett Lake on Sunday

Thanks to an excellent Arizona Highways Photography Workshop “Bryce in Winter” last week, I wasn’t able to get out to chase wildflowers.  However, en route to and from Utah, I made several Arizona-based wildflower observations worthy of sharing:

  • The Joshua trees north of Wickenburg along Highway 93 are starting to bloom, especially beyond the picnic area.  I didn’t have a chance to check out Tres Alamos Wilderness (location #16 in our book), but I’d assume with confidence the Joshua trees there and in this area will continue to show their big cream-colored blooms for at least the next two weeks.
  • Nothing is blooming in Nothing yet (location #15).
  • The south-facing rolling hills south of Lake Pleasant along Highway 74/Carefree Highway are starting to show solid patches of yellow – poppies appear to be blooming quite well here, but didn’t have time to check out Lake Pleasant (location #21) proper to learn of the progress there.

Paul spent the week wandering around Cabeza Prieta, and though he captured some spectacular images of dune primrose and desert sand verbena, the area in bloom is very small and requires an arduous hike to see – not worth the long drive and safety risk.  He also reported that Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument near Ajo (location # ) is a “no-show” for flowers this year.

It seems we aren’t the only ones “wild about wildflowers” this year!  We’ve received some encouraging news from our blog readers within the last few days, including:

  • Jacque and Bob report that the Arizona Trail near the Picketpost Mountains outside of Superior as well as the roadsides near Florence Junction (location #34) has poppies and lupines.
  • Tom suggests that poppies are showing along the Go John Trail (location #25).
  • Bret saw one tiny patch of poppies along the Jacob’s Crosscut Trail in Lost Dutchman State Park (location #31), but not much else in the Superstitions area.
  • Our dear friend Paul W. out at Boyce Thompson Arboretum just posted a first-of-the-season wildflower report at ag.arizona.edu/bta/events/wildflowers.html.
  • The Arizona State Parks Ranger Cam is live!  Keep tabs on what’s blooming around the state at azstateparks.com/rangercam/index.html.

Let’s us know what you’ve seen by leaving us a Comment below!

Weather forecasters are predicting rain for the Phoenix area on Friday and Saturday, with warming temperatures and much sun next week, which should encourage the blooms to continue showing around the Sonoran Desert.

If you’re looking to get ready for photographing wildflowers in Arizona, hear photographic tips, tricks, and inspiration at two upcoming FREE events this week:

  • Thursday, March 7, “Wild About Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers” at 7 pm at the Northern Arizona University School of Communication (Building #16), Room 119
  • Saturday, March 9, “Mastering Macro Photography” presentations at 11 am and again at 2 pm, first-come, limited seating and book signing event at Tempe Camera

For more information about these two special presentations as well as other upcoming presentations and learning opportunities, be sure to check out our Events page on the Wild in Arizona website.

If you love color in Arizona, you’ll love the entire month of September in the Grand Canyon State!  The ninth month of the year serves as a transition period where the summer heat finally gives into the cooler, refreshing breezes of autumn and the wildflowers dancing in picturesque meadows begin to disappear, paving the way for the on-looking trees to put on their own colorful display.

Thanks to our mild climate – save for summer in the desert – Arizona sees an extended growing season for not only wildflowers, but fall colors across the state.  As the weather changes, leaves on the deciduous trees and bushes begin their multicolored transformation in late September in the higher elevations and last into early January along the riparian areas in the far south.  Yes, early January!

Though we’re sad to see the 2012 wildflower come to an end,  we’re gearing up already for an exciting autumn season ahead!  And we hope you are too!  As we prepare for the new season’s arrival, Paul and I wanted to share our favorite locations to photograph the changing palette of color in Arizona each month.  So mark your calendars and get ready for Mother Nature’s next act!

September

Near Snowbowl Ski Area

Aspen groves and views of the San Francisco Peaks near the Snowbowl Ski Area

  • Paul (P):  The Kaibab Plateau en route to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon starting in late September. The drive from Jacob Lake on Highway 67 to De Motte Park has some of Arizona’s best groves of aspen. A short drive on any forest road in this area will get you deep into the golden forests.
  • Colleen (C):  Near the Snowbowl Ski Area in Flagstaff the last week of September.  A quick and easy stroll from the parking lot leads to abundant aspens, changing seemingly all hues of yellow and orange.  A visit here is a great way to kick off your fall photography season!  (www.arizonasnowbowl.com)

October

Canyon de Chelly

Cottonwood trees in Canyon de Chelly National Monument

  • P:  Upper Christopher Creek area with a short one mile hike into See Canyon in mid-October. See fiery maples without the crowds of Oak Creek Canyon (near Sedona, which also a worthwhile location to visit around this time, so long as you don’t mind a little more company).
  • C: Canyon de Chelly in late October.  An already magical, photogenic canyon gets a splash of color, thanks to the cottonwood trees lining the wash change from summer green to vibrant yellow. (nps.gov/cach)

November

  • P:  Garden Canyon on the Huachuca Army Base out side of Sierra Vista in early November.  A long, bumpy ride along a dirt road pays off with a canyon full of eclectic deciduous trees showing their vivacious fall coats along a small, idyllic flowing creek.
  • C: Pumphouse Wash in early November.  Everyone flocks to the nearby West Fork of Oak Creek – and for good reason!  It’s spectacular! – but when you want to photograph the season’s color in solitude, turn to this quiet canyon to record maples, Oregon grape, and sycamores against the beige Coconino sandstone cliffs.

December

San Pedro River

San Pedro River

  • P:  San Pedro River all month and into January:  The autumnal season in Arizona goes out on a high note here as a ribbon of cottonwoods and sycamore sing the final song of fall along sections of stream from Charleston Road outside of Sierra Vista to Hereford.
  • C:  Hassyampa River Nature Preserve in early December.  While many people in northern latitudes are shoveling snow, the cottonwood trees in this little-known gem are still saying it’s fall in Arizona.

As we’ve done with the wildflowers this year, we’ll post periodic Field Reports here on our blog throughout the season with up-to-date information about color conditions in the various locations we visit and photograph.  Be sure to keep us posted with your findings along the way as well!

In the meantime, if you’re looking to start polishing your photography skills, be sure to join Colleen at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum on Sunday, September 16 for the “Get Ready for Fall” Photo Workshop (more information at arboretum.ag.arizona.edu/photoclass.html, registration required, limited to 12 students).

Happy fall color shooting!
Paul and Colleen

Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior AZ. is showing a lot of color in the cactus and agave gardens. Some of the best wildflowers are still great in the Demonstration Garden. This is worth the drive and admission. Saguaros are still budding in most places with good blooms in others, very hit and miss this year. A few shots from this week.

Cactus Gardens

Demonstration GardenCactus Garden

Claret Cups

Wildflowers are burning off now and cactus blooms are peaking. Saguaro’s starting to show and should end the desert bloom in the next month plus. The bloom at the Desert Botanical Garden, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are your best bets this year to see the last of the desert wildflowers. Rocky Mountain Iris starting in the high country.

Agave & Penstemon

Underneath the poppies at Peridot Mesa (Photograph by Paul Gill)

Despite a somewhat rainy November and December, the desert has been dry as a bone for the first three months of 2012.  Some areas, including Phoenix and its surroundings, have not seen a measurable drop of rain this year!

No doubt the lack of much needed precipitation has affected the annual bloom this season.  Though we saw an extremely early and rare poppy bloom near Superior and Globe, we’re seeing a low-to-nonexistent bloom in typically reliable spots.  Without new moisture in the near future, we could also see a low-to-non-existent perennial bloom as well – meaning the globemallow, brittlebush, and lupine might not show their beautiful colors well this year either.

So all together now, everybody do a rain dance!

Peridot Mesa shadows (Photography copyright Paul Gill)

Here’s what we’ve found in our most recent wanderings…

Current Hot Spots:

  • Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation is still miraculously showing smaller carpets of Mexican gold poppies on the inner basin and northern slopes, but the area is starting to seed out.  So stop reading this blog and go out there RIGHT NOW if you want to photograph this area this year!  It’s on its way down….don’t forget to pick up the required $10 permit from the Circle K in Globe before visiting Indian lands.
  • Boyce Thompson Arboretum has spotty poppies sprouting near the Cactus Garden and a broad mix of wildflowers in the Desert Garden in the Demonstration Garden.  Many cactus and succulents are just now starting to show some blooms.
  • Desert Botanical Garden has an abundance of Parry’s penstamon, brittlebush, lupine, blanketflower, and a few Texas Mountain Laurel trees – which smell like grape soda! – in bloom.  Did not see much in the way of cactus blooms yet, but it’s still early to see buds.

Peridot Mesa (Photograph copyright Paul Gill)

Showing, but Just “A’ight”:

  • Some blooms past the saddle on Happy Camp Road near Peachville Mountain area.
  • Gonzales Pass showing healthy Parry’s penstamon and desert globemallow
  • The white albino poppies were still showing along FR459 at Bartlett Lake this past Sunday, as were scattered chuparosa, brittlebush, lupine , scorpionweed, and owl clover; I could count the number of chia we saw on one hand.  Continue driving past the saddle and look for the dirt pullouts on the left side to find the limited set of flowers.  Be sure to pick up the Tonto Pass at the Ranger’s Station or Bartlett Lake Marina before parking along the road.

Not Happening:

  • The Mexican gold poppy show at Peachville Mountain and Silver King Mine Road is done on the east side.
  • The rangers at the Lost Dutchman State Park are reporting some spotty flowers along the Jacob’s Crosscut Trail. While I did not have the chance to hike that trail on Friday, the lower elevations close to the parking areas are barren of wildflowers, save for a few bunches of fiddleneck.

    Lupine and poppy buds (Photography copyright Paul Gill)

Rumor Has It…(We’ve not seen, only heard from others):

  • Catalina and Picacho Peak state parks are reportedly still showing Mexican gold poppies and an array of other flowers right now, thanks to a little bit of rain in the Tucson area in January.  Keep your eye on the Arizona State Parks Ranger Cam at azstateparks.com/rangercam/index.html for the most up-to-date sightings for these and other state parks.

Happy shooting,

~Paul and Colleen

The poppies are coming!  The poppies are coming!Mexican Gold Poppy

While some northern states are still buried in snow, it’s almost 70 degrees here in sunny Phoenix, Arizona (gotta love winter in the desert!). Thanks to some healthy rains in November and December (not so much in January though), combined with mild but warmer temperatures, we’re starting to see wildflowers in the desert already.

Poppies, like the one on the right from a couple years ago at Florence Junction, are beginning to pop up along the roadsides, as are blooms of globemallow, brittlebush, and desert marigolds. The result of human hydroseeding efforts, these early bloomers suggest the wild bloom may be just around the corner…on the early side if this weather continues…

Our good friend, Paul Wolterbeek at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park reports:

“Check out Peachville Mountain (north of Superior, AZ and best accessed from the Silver King Mine Road off highway 60)  over the next two weeks for hillsides of Goldpoppies — from 5 miles away you can already see the first west-facing hillsides turning orange-gold. Poppies are blooming now, but peak color should be 10-14 days ahead. Judging from the size of the hillside swaths I saw today – could be breathtaking by next week (maybe even this coming weekend).

Lesquerella, also known as bladderpod. Photo courtesy of Paul Wolterbeek.

Today I hiked a section of Arnett Canyon south of Boyce Thompson Arboretum with my co-worker Gonzalo, who lead me to a nice (though small, isolated and remote) hillside of goldpoppies. Photographed ‘em with charismatic saguaros in the background. Not my best poppy JPGs ever, but still my first for 2012 so I’m pleased! Red Maids and Henbit were abundant, we also saw a few scattered Firecracker Penstemon, Bluedicks, Bladderpod (both yellow and the “purpurea” variety with white flower clusters); Blackfoot Daisies – and even Desert Lavender. One Desert Anemone growing in the volcanic rocks down by the dry creekbed was a welcome surprise. Blooming flowers were few, but unusually early this year for our elevation (2,400 feet); Gonzalo pointed out abundant lupine, phacelia and other annuals that will flower over the coming weeks. Spring’s already looking good!

Photographers: if you go, please be careful and walk lightly – don’t trample small shoots that are coming up, Feb. 8 is still quite early in the season, with many flowers yet to bloom – so please tread lightly over all the lupines-to-be, phacelia, mallows and others that aren’t showy yet, but soon will be.”

Wolterbeek – who’s definitely as wild about wildflowers as we are!! – also kindly sent us a list of the first signs he’s seen of spring within the state park, which included:

  • “Marah gilensis (WILD CUCUMBER), all over the park – watch for skyward-reaching vines and coiled tendrils the plant uses to climb above host plants it uses as ladders to reach sunlight. clusters of starfish shaped flowers now will turn into fruit shaped like a medieval mace.
  • Crossosoma bigelovii (RHYOLITE BUSH, aka ragged rock flower), a cool shrub endemic to areas with volcanic rock, rhyolite, such as you find with our towering volcanic cliffs at BTA that are remnants of picket post mountain’s volcanic past. rhyolite bush is flowering strong this week, in fact many are at peak now — early this year.
  • Lycium exsertum (TOMATILLO), larger shrubs all along the main trail which began flowering back in January – and are at peak right now.  Flowers are tubular and downward pointing — worthy photo ops when they’re being worked by native bees. watch for little red berries on these shrubs in a month or so.
  • Simmondsia chinensis (JOJOBA), a member of the boxwood family, and a common desert shrub known for the coffee-bean-sized brown seeds you can snack on if you’re hiking a desert trail from may-through-july when ripe. you can’t easily tell the sex of these plants during fall and winter – but its obvious now when they’re flowering. many of these are at peak at BTA now. flowers are nondescript, green and unshowy – but its an important native plant if you’re into ethnobotany.
  • Lesquerella purpurea (PURPLE BLADDERPOD), the very first of these began blooming this weekend right along the trail up above Ayer Lake. despite the name, look for white flowers.
  • Phacelia distans (PHACELIA, scorpionweed); a member of the waterleaf family, the very first scattered few of these are blooming along the ‘switchbacks’ section of trail down below picket post mansion, just above queen creek. expect to see thickets of this photogenic, fuzzy & blue/purple/violet flower by mid/late February.
  • Ephedra viridis (MORMON TEA), like jojoba, this one’s unshoy and innocuous, but look closely at the flower clusters and you’ll see they resemble pine cones. they’re related.”

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum will start up their excellent guided wildflower walks with Cass Blodgett starting the first weekend in March.  For extra photography help, Paul and I will return to the Arboretum on March 3rd for another round of FREE presentation and photo walks.   For details on these two opportunities, check out http://ag.arizona.edu/bta/.  We also have a full schedule of additional events posted on our Wild in Arizona website at http://www.wildinarizona.com/events.html.

Starting within the next week or so, we’ll start posting field reports based on Paul and my upcoming outings so stay tuned to our blog here!  Another great resource to bookmark is the DesertUSA Wildflower Reports at http://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/wildupdates.html.

Happy color chasing!

~Colleen

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