A trychocereus hybrid blooms at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson last Thursday

With the somewhat unimpressive spring annual & perennial bloom essentially done in the low desert–save for the cactus blooms–wildflowers are still popping up around the state!  Here’s what we’ve seen within the last several days:

  • Another trychocereus bloom in Tohono Chul Park in Tuscon

    Tohono Chul Park:  Given the warm temperatures and lack of rain, I was quite impressed by the variety of healthy blooms in this Tucson park when I visited last Thursday.  It was a Mecca of macro opportunities!  A few poppies and owl clover are hanging on, while an abundance of yellow columbine, verbena, desert marigolds, yerba manza, and a variety of cacti blooms (including several species of night bloomers) are showing their colors.  While you won’t go wrong on any paved path (or even just in the parking lot), head to the Sonoran Seasons Garden, cactus/succulent ramada, and the Riparian Habitat for best photo ops but bring a telephoto lens (in addition to macro) as some of the blooms are tucked behind low fences.  Tohono Chul is home to the largest private collection of the famous Queen of the Night cactus, which blooms on one night sometime in May through July-sometimes with less than 12 hours notice!  The magical event – called “Bloom Night” – has yet to occur this year, but it may come early.  If you’re interested in catching this popular event, learn more and sign up for their email notification list at http://tohonochulpark.org/cereus.

  • Primrose and verbena tango in the parking lot at the Tucson Botanical Garden last Thursday

    Tucson Botanical Garden:  Although smaller in size than Tohono Chul, TBG offered a slightly different collection of flowers to photograph.  Head to the Cactus and Succulent Garden for strawberry hedgehog and a variety of night blooming cacti around the cafe.  Then visit the Wildflower Garden for primrose, blanketflower, and globemallow.

  • Saguaro National Park (West):  After observing several saguaro cacti in bloom while driving along Gates Pass Road, I popped into the Visitor Center to learn how the bloom was progressing.  The ranger suggested the saguaro bloom had just started and expected the bloom to crescendo to a peak in the next two to three weeks, which would be earlier than normal.  Best bet right now is along Hohokam Road.  Some palo verde, prickly pear cactus, and buckhorn cactus were still blooming, but certainly past peak.
  • Echinopsis hybrid bloom called “First Light” in the Tucson Botanical Garden in Tucson

    Sedona area:  Some scattered strawberry hedgehog cactus, prickly pear cactus, desert globemallow, and blackfoot daisies around the Huckaby Trailhead parking area (although little seems to be blooming along Schnebly Hill Road at this time) and at the Back-O-Beyond Trailhead.  Not much blooming in Slide Rock State Park…apple trees and myrtle bloomed in mid-March (yes, early!).

We eagerly awaiting the monsoon bloom, which typically occurs in late June through September (will it too be 1-2 months early?!).  Also, this month, NOAA officially declared an “El Nino Watch” status, which means the likelihood of an El Nino (read: wetter weather for Arizona) developing this summer or fall increased above 50%.

Happy flower hunting!

Blanketflower in Tucson Botanical Garden’s Wildflower Garden last Thursday

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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…

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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

Bloom along Forest Service Road 419

The prolific blue dick bloom along Forest Service Road 419, en route to the Barnhardt Trailhead near Rye, Arizona from this past Tuesday.

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Detail of strawberry hedgehog cactus from the Gateway Saddle area in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Though the annual show might be coming to an end, the perennial event is just starting here in the Arizona desert so there’s plenty of excellent wildflower photography opportunities remaining even if the Mexican gold poppies we all love are starting to fade.  Here’s what we’ve seen out there since our last update:

Beeline Highway (Highway 87):  If poppies are what you seek, the sides of the road are still showing some patches of the yellow flower among other blooms like globemallow and brittlebush.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve:  The Gateway Saddle area off the Gateway Loop Trail is showing blooming Strawberry Hedgehog cacti, while the brittle bush is just OK.  Off 128th Street, near Tom’s Thumb Trailhead, carpets of yellow Goldfields cover the desert.  The banana yucca should start blooming in a week or two.  For maps and trail information for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, visit  www.scottsdaleaz.gov/Assets/Public+Website/preserve/TrailMaps.pdf

(Additional locations/information after the photo)

View of Four Peaks with brittlebush from the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

View of Four Peaks with brittlebush from the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Sego lily

Sego lily along Forest Service Road 419 en route to the Barnhardt Trail near Rye, Arizona

Forest Service Road 419 (location #44 in our Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers book):  Sick of poppies but still want to photograph a larger, showy flower?  Make the drive to FSR 419 outside of Rye (marked as the Barnhardt Trailhead turnoff from Highway 87) to see an awesome sego lily – also known as mariposa lily – bloom in progress!  In addition to white flowers and many budding, not-yet-blooming plants, you’ll also see a prolific blue dick bloom (see photo above) as well as plenty of goldfields and desert onion.  It’s a lot cooler up there (41 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday at sunrise), so don’t forget to throw in a jacket to stay warm until the sun comes up!

Devil’s Potato Patch (location #46):  The upper south-facing flanks are just starting to display brittlebush color, but peak is likely a week or more away.

Cline Cabin Road (location #47):  Poppies are burned in the lower elevations, but the fairy duster has exploded.  In the lowlands, you’ll also find blooming banana yucca, globemallow, and strawberry hedgehog cacti.  The brittle bush bloom is likely a week or more away…if a great show is in cards at all here.  Some of the Engelmann’s prickly pear cacti have started budding – no blooms sited yet though.  As you travel higher up the mountain, just prior to the burn area, keep an eye out for poppies, lupine, blue dicks, strawberry hedgehog cactii and rock escheveria on the south-facing hillside.  As you drive deeper into the scorched trees, purple nightshade has started to put on its own show.

One final reminder:  As you venture out, keep a watch out for rattlesnakes.  Though a fear of them should not prevent you from enjoying and exploring the desert, we simply need to start watching our step as we travel in their rocky, desert habitat during this warmer weather.

Happy shooting!

Colleen and Paul

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Scorpionweed and strawberry hedgehog cactus along the Lost Dog Wash Trail

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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!

 

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

The wildflowers are moving up in Arizona now and being replaced with the Cactus blooms in the lower deserts. Headgehog, Pincushion, and Ocotillo are blooming around the Superstitions. There is a nice Creamcup bloom around Sedona, Bell Rock, Palatki and Honanki Ruins have the best carpets now

Creamcup Sedona

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