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.
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

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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)

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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

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