Western wildflowers benefit from winter precipitation

El Niño weather pattern yielded glorious spring flowers

Judy Underwood

Profusion of spring color at Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Arizona

Wildflower displays in the southwest vary from year-to-year. The most important factor is winter and spring precipitation. Because of the El Niño influence on the weather this past winter, the precipitation produced a good year for wildflowers. The peak season is short and regional, so the timing of a wildflower trip is important. Many of the state parks have wildflower hotlines giving status and locations of blooms.

Desert Lily

The Desert Lily is commonly found in the desert in the spring. This one was near Borrego Springs, California. Also called the Ajo Lily because of the bulb's garlic-like flavor, it is similar in appearance to the Easter Lily.

Desert Paintbrush

Desert Star

Many wildflower enthusiasts refer to flowers like Desert Star as "belly-flowers." They are tiny, low-growing and easily overlooked. Desert Star is actually one of the larger belly-flowers.

Desert Five-spot

A beautiful annual, this Desert Five-spot was photographed in Death Valley.

Sticky Geranium

Sticky Geranium is a perennial that flowers all summer long.

Wild Blue Flax

Wild Blue Flax, a native wildflower, is officially named Liaum perenne var lewisii for Captain Meriwether Lewis after he recorded it in his journals.

Yellow Primrose and Wild Heliotrope


This American Star-thistle has many names. Looking like a bad-hair day, it is also called American Basketflower, Powderpuff Thistle and Cardo del Valle. It is a thistle without thorns.


Notice the Fibonacci spiral pattern formed by the disc florets, which will mature into seeds.

Desert Globemallow

Globemallow is found all over the southwest. It blooms all summer and the color of the flowers is exquisite.


Elkweed, also called Deer Ears or Monument Plant, is an unusual wildflower. There are many of the basal rosettes of leaves in my yard, but this is the first year I have seen the flower stalks. It may take up to 80 years to bloom and the stalk can grow up to eight feet tall. Mine has bloomed all summer. Once the elkweed blooms, the original plant dies, leaving many seeds for new plants.

The photographer with poppies at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona

I have enjoyed sharing my adventures and photographs with Rye Reflections readers through the years. Happy trails!


September, 2010