Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Has Sprung in the Sonoran Desert

People who say that the Sonoran Desert landscape is blah and uninteresting have never seen a Sonoran spring. In years of good winter rains, the desert will literally be covered with blankets, comforters and crazy quilts of riotous shapes and colors. One recent spring north of Phoenix, it was my privilege to see a carpet of Mariposa lilies. (My photograph of one is to the left.)

I love the natural world. It is my church. I also love to photograph it, so when the winter rains fall, I begin to dream of spring. I keep an eye on websites like the Desert Botanical Garden, which has a section devoted solely to wildflower sightings.

I am no master when identifying wildflowers. Sure I do know quite a few, and I can make educated guesses now and then to help me turn to the right page in my reference books, but each spring, I do need my reference books. One of them is Meg Quinn's Wildflowers of the Desert Southwest.

Going out and about in search of wildflowers is fun, educational, a wonderful stress reducer, and... did I say fun? If this is something you haven't done before but would like to give a try, Google for wildflowers like I did. "Arizona wildflowers 2010" brought up some excellent hits, and if you substitute your area for "Arizona" you'll undoubtedly have good luck as well. Same thing with looking for wildflower reference guides, if you want to know what you've found. The best tip I can give you is to make sure you get your hands on a book in which the flowers are grouped by color. Most of us aren't botanists, and technical names, quite frankly, mean squat to the beginner.

My favorite places to look for wildflowers are out on unpaved trails, but many times you can see spectacular displays along the sides of major highways. If I want to pay a small fee, two of my favorite places to take my camera are the Desert Botanical Garden here in Phoenix, and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum just outside of Superior, Arizona. Tonight as I was checking on wildflowers, I came across a short You Tube video showing what Boyce Thompson looks like right now. Meg Quinn, the author of Wildflowers of the Desert Southwest, speaks in the video. You also get to see some gems, like an adult hummingbird feeding its young in the nest. I hope you'll take a look at the video, and-- more than anything else-- I hope you make the time to get out and really see and enjoy spring in your area. It only comes once a year, and it's quite wonderful.


  1. Cathy - What a beautiful 'photo! Thanks for sharing : ). I love those changes in nature, too : ). One thing I've always liked about Tony Hillerman's books is the way they bring the American Southwest - the country, I mean - really alive.

  2. Those of us who don't live in the desert don't think of flowers when we think of that part of the country. It looks like we should, though, because those flowers are gorgeous!

  3. Loved the video! When I lived in AZ, I wasn't a very good photographer and I don't have any photos of the flowering desert. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  4. I never think of flowers in regard to desert country so this is an eye-opener for me. I've been to AZ in winter and summer; now I see I need to get there in spring. Thanks for the new perspective.

  5. For some reason, the bunnies have chosen me out of the entire universe to eat all my penstamon, which is really heartbreaking. But at least I can enjoy seeing it everywhere else!

  6. Margot K-- It is a landscape that can easily make a person "wax poetic".

    Kathy-- Photographs can't begin to do justice to spring here. You have to be here to see it and smell it for yourself.

    Beth-- You're welcome.

    Barbara-- You're quite welcome.

    Rhapsody-- My penstemon is going crazy and not a bunny in sight.

  7. Your pic reminds me of visiting Hawaii and seeing green shoots coming up in a field of black lava. What beautiful contrast.

  8. Thanks for sharing! It's always fun to get to see what plants look like in different locals, especially in a dryer location (since I live in rainy OR).

  9. One of these years we are going to have to be in the desert when it looks this beautiful. Your pictures are gorgeous but I'll bet it's even better in person.

  10. Dawn-- I think that's one of the things I love about Arizona: it is a land of strong contrasts.

    Alyce-- I always will remember the summer when I was ten and my mother and I came with my grandparents on a road trip to California. On our way back to Illinois, we drove up through part of Oregon. There were clouds of gnats so thick that we had to keep stopping to clean the windshield of the car! LOL

    Margot-- It is. So many of the wildflowers stand barely an inch tall, so if you don't get out to walk around, you can miss the best parts of the show.


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