Earlier this week, while camping in northern Arizona in the Coconino National Forest, I had the fortunate chance to witness the birth of an evening primrose flower as it slowly unfurled from its green bud at dusk. We watched a first bloom for almost 45 minutes; a second one nearby took less than 7 minutes to open. It was one of the most beautiful natural events I’ve ever seen.

If you’d like to see it too, check out the video I just posted of the second bloom at 2x real time speed (so it’s about 3 minutes long) – enjoy!

The evening primrose were well past peak and at the end of their season. Only a few buds remained on Monday, and it’s likely those have already bloomed.

That said, we’ve heard reports that areas near Mormon Lake (location 12 in the Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers (2nd Ed.) guidebook) are fields of gold right now…

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.

Arizona has received the rains needed the past three months. As a result, the desert is green, and we are starting to see wildflowers sprout

The rains need to continue every few weeks or the sprouts will produce less bloom stalks. We do have a 40% chance of rain this week, and we all hope for more (so all together now, rain dance!). So our current prediction for the Sonoran Desert wildflowers is a normal spring bloom…

BUT! This rain pattern we’re currently seeing is similar what we saw 2010, when we saw a big lupine bloom (see photo below from Silver King Mine, location #36 in our Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflower guidebook). If we get a lot of rain in February, we could also get a owl clover carpet bloom like we had in 2005 in places like the Eagletail Mountains (location #18 in the book).

If we don’t see much rain this month, we still have the old faithful poppy fields like we have seen in the last few years at Peridot Mesa (location #48). A few poppies are already starting to show around Lake Pleasant Regional Park (#20), White Tank Mountain Regional Park (#21), and Lost Dutchman State Park (#31).

If you would like to start planning your wildflower outings in Arizona this spring, pick up a copy of our book to help get you in the right place at the right time: Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflower. Thanks for your support!

And keep an eye on our blog here.  We hope to have a field report up soon!

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

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

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

Peak Sunflowers

The yellow carpets of calliopsis are moving up from Mormon Lake into Ashurst Lake, but still some great opportunities for elk and prairie sunflowers in the area for the next few weeks.  The prairie sunflower bloom around the San Francisco Peaks has peaked so check on the higher elevations for best blooms. Though I didn’t have time to scout, be on the look out for flowers along the Mogollon Rim and White Mountains as well.

Sunset Crater Sunflower-

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.

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

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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