Winter Rains Bring ‘Super Bloom’ to Calif. Deserts

An unusually wet winter has brought California’s Anza-Borrego Desert to life with flowers. (Bianca Bruno/CNS)

BORREGO SPRINGS, Calif. (CN) – Winter storms that drenched the Golden State have brought a blanket of wildflowers which cloaked the Anza-Borrego Desert in a “super bloom” not seen for decades.

California’s wet winter put a dent in its years-long drought and brought to life the state’s hillsides and deserts, which have been blanketed with wildflowers from California poppies to rare desert lilies.

Spanning 600,000 acres and covered with 500 miles of roads, Anza-Borrego Desert is south of Palm Springs and is California’s largest state park. It received six inches of rain this winter – an amount significant enough to wake up thousands of wildflower seeds which some park officials estimate have been dormant for decades, maybe even a century.

Anza-Borrego first saw blooms blanket the desert in late February, and the super bloom has continued into April as temperatures haven’t gotten high enough to scorch the flowers. The blooms brought record crowds of state residents to see the rare sight as well as visitors from as far away as Africa and Asia, according to park officials.

Currently, purple, yellow and lime-green cactus flowers are blooming on beavertail cactus, hedgehog cactus, barrel cactus and other spiky desert plants.

Covered in bright orange flowers, towering blooming ocotillo stands high above the other desert flora with its tentacle-like tendrils twisting in all directions. Yellow brittlebush blankets nearly the entire desert floor like a golden carpet.

Thousands of white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars have also turned up in the desert to munch on their favorite snack: wildflowers. They lined the path leading to the trail for the Palm Oasis hike, a three-mile round-trip walk leading to a waterfall and natural pool filled with cool spring water from the wet season.

Bighorn sheep frequent the streams to get a cool drink but were not out the day Courthouse News made the trek in near 90-degree midday heat.

The low-level super bloom which carpeted the desert hit its peak late last month, but many flowering shrubs and cactus will continue to bloom until scorching summer heat arrives.

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