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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!

 

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

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.

First Poppy 2013

Wildflower up date the season started good with some rain in Nov.-Dec. then we had a dry spell with a sudden freeze and now above average rains. The deserts are showing large areas of green ground cover mostly grasses but there are sprouts of lupine on the south slopes of the Superstitions and as long as it keeps raining we should see some wildflowers in the next 2-3 weeks.

The Farmers Almanac is showing rain every other week for Feb.-March. My prediction for this year is a OK Annuals bloom, GOOD Perennial bloom (brittle bush looking good for late March-April) and GREAT cactus bloom. I have a good amount of Mexican gold poppy and scorpionweed sprouts in my un-watered garden.  The photo of the first poppy is from my watered garden.

I will be in Southern Arizona the first of March and will update again at that time.

Thanks Paul

The Apache Trail has roadside, poppy, lupine, creamcup, Rock Echeveria, penstemon, and brittle bush but no carpets of flowers. The strawberry hedgehog is starting. Tonto National Monument is poor for flowers but there are carpets of Goldfield flowers just past on the right FR 83 & J Bar road. they are burning off but with a rain this weekend may come back. Chances are if areas that were blooming like Silver King and Peridot get rain we could see a second bloom in a few weeks.

Rock Echeveria

Cream Cups

Roosevelt Lake, Gold field

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

Current Hot Spots:  Areas near Superior and Globe.  Peachville Mountain and Silver King Mine area continue their impressive (and super early!) poppy display.   Paul Wolterbeek out at Boyce Thompson Arboretum posted some great photos of Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Indian Reservation on DesertUSA (http://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/az.html).

Mexican Gold Poppy

Mexican Gold Poppy near Saguaro Lake

We’ve also received reports from readers that the Black Hills Rock Hounding area near Safford (thanks Donna Clarke!) and Box Canyon south of Highway 60 (thanks Sue Penney!) are both showing poppies as well.

Up and Coming:  Saguaro Lake area about 2 miles south of the intersection of the Beeline Highway (Hwy 87) and the Bush Highway.  In a short “drive-by” visit, we counted over 11 different types of flowers in bloom, including young poppies (see photo on left), lupine, chuparosa, bladderpod, fiddleneck, filaree, desert marigolds, desert globemallow, and desert pincushion (see photo on right)

Desert Pincushion

Desert Pincushion near Saguaro Lake

Not Happening (Yet):  Cline Cabin Road, Devils Potato Patch, and Oatman.  Though normally an early blooming location at the start of the Arizona’s wildflower season, Oatman likely saw an annual-killing freeze during the snowstorm that hit northwestern Arizona in the middle of last week.  Though poppies and other annuals aren’t likely to show there this year as a result, it still may be worth a visit to see the perennials in a month or so, specifically for the brittlebush, which are less affected by the extreme weather conditions.

Happy hunting!
~Colleen

 

Paul is too modest to toot his own horn, but I’m sure happy to!

I just opened the December 2011 issue of the Arizona Highways magazine, and saw that one of Paul’s photographs has been included in the “50 Greatest Photographs” to have appeared in the magazine.  You might recognize this exquisite shot, as it was first published this past March as the opening two-page spread for the Wildflower portfolio.

One things for sure, Paul knows how to photograph wildflowers!

Congratulations, Paul!

Dew drops cling to a Mexican Golden Poppy and refract a nearby saguaro in the droplets. Sonoran Desert west of Bartlett Lake, Arizona. Paul Gill Photography

 

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