Upon their return from a conference in Palm Springs, some of my colleagues shared how amazing the current wild flower bloom was. It so happened that we had a family trip planned to the Riverside area during Spring Break, so I thought, why not check it out?
WHAT CONDITIONS CAUSE A SUPER BLOOM?
A super bloom can occur when two environmental conditions occur at the same time: Above average rainfall and below average temperatures.
Above Average Rainfall: To date in 2019, the rainfall in the Coachella Valley stands at 4.34”, which is 227% above the last 16 year average of 1.91 over the same time frame.
Below Average Temperatures: The average temperature over that same time frame is 5 degrees cooler than normal (70 degrees vs. 75).
The higher rainfall allows the flowers to grow faster and bigger while the cooler temperatures allow them to stay in bloom much longer than in normal years.
GOOD LOCATIONS TO VIEW THE SUPER BLOOM
Doing a simple Google search for “Best locations to view the super bloom in California 2019” will provide many websites with helpful information. Here are a few locations that I have visited in the past.
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (Day use fee: $10)
- Coachella Valley Preserve (Day use fee: None; donations are appreciated)
- Joshua Tree National Park (Day use fee: $15 weekly for individuals; $30 weekly for noncommercial carloads)
- Mojave National Preserve (No entry fees)
A VISIT TO COACHELLA VALLEY PRESERVE
We drove down to Palm Springs from Corona and enjoyed a fabulous breakfast at Elmers Restaurant. The German pancakes were most excellent!
Breakfast at Elmer’s in Palm Springs.
After breakfast (and a stop at Starbucks) we headed to the Coachella Valley Preserve which was only 20 minutes away.
As we approached the location around 9:00 am, we noticed many cars parked along the roadside leading up to the entrance. We were worried that parking was going to be an issue, but as luck would have it, a car pulled out of the main parking lot as we entered, giving us a prime spot. Before we got two steps away from the car I noticed a Phainopepla sitting atop a Creosote Bush and could hear a Cactus Wren calling in the distance.
I knew we were in for a great nature walk in the low desert.
Conditions at the Preserve
At first glance the groves of Desert Fan Palms looked very out-of-place compared to the rest of the dry scrub vegetation.
Desert Fan Palms
As we approached the visitor’s center we could feel just a light breeze and enjoyed the comfortable 80-degree temperature under a cloudless sky. We stopped and listened briefly to the preserve docents as they were explaining the conditions and history of the area but decided to venture out on our own.
The trail we took lead us along a boardwalk that descended to a wet area with a peculiar odor. We really didn’t see too much in the way of flower blooms in the immediate vicinity of the palm oasis, but the combination of Desert Fan Palms (tall and short), cattails and gurgling creek made for an interesting experience.
Coachella Valley Preserve
THE SUPER BLOOM FLOWERS
We left the grove of palm trees and headed towards the hill along the west side of the preserve. We left the easy to walk boardwalk and took a trail through the sandy wash where the first flowers, Desert Dandelions, were displaying a beautiful creamy white outer petal with a bold and bright yellow center. It kind of reminded me of the Tidy Tip flowers back home, only larger.
Soon the color and variety intensified with white, lavender and gold flowers coloring the landscape. We could make out Desert Chicory, Notch-leaved Phacelia, Desert Dandelions, Mojave Popcorn Flower and Desert Sand-verbena. (I have to admit that many of the flower names escaped me at the moment, but thankfully Nancy Jewett came to my rescue with the true names when we got back!)
For me, the true star of the bloom would have to be the Sand-Verbena. Its purple hues were so saturated and bold in the desert landscape.
The most abundant color by far was yellow. The Desert Sunflowers stretched as far as we could see.
WILDLIFE AT THE PRESERVE
Almost as inspiring as the Super Bloom, was the migration of butterflies through the preserve. Painted Ladies were the most abundant, with other species mixed in.
Painted Lady on Mojave Popcorn Flower
Painted Lady on Desert Sunflower
White-lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar
I also discovered a Desert Iguana that was warming itself in the sand.
As I got farther away from the main oasis, I started hearing more birds singing and calling from the Creosote bushes. Verdin were the loudest at first, but soon more Cactus Wrens joined in.
Finally, a pair of Black-throated Sparrows popped up. I was very delighted to be able to photograph the sparrows because their coloration is so bold and colorful at the same time with a buffy brown back and stark black-and-white chest and face.
On the way back to the visitor’s center I was able to spot both a Costa’s Hummingbird and an Allen’s Hummingbird to round out the checklist for the day.
By the time we left around 11:30, the temperature gauge from the car was reading 95 degrees, making for a true warm (almost hot) desert adventure.
- Desert Chicory
- Desert Creosote
- Desert Dandelion
- Desert Fan Palm – the only native palm tree in California
- Desert Sunflower
- Desert Sand Verbena
- Fremont’s Pincushion
- Notch-leaved Phacelia
- Schott’s Indigobush
- Western Whiptail Lizard
- Desert Iguana
- Eurasian Collared-Dove
- White-winged Dove
- Mourning Dove
- Costa’s Hummingbird
- Allen’s Hummingbird
- Cooper’s Hawk
- Northern Flicker
- American Kestrel
- Say’s Phoebe
- Common Raven
- Bewick’s Wren
- Cactus Wren
- Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
- House Finch
- Lesser Goldfinch
- Black-throated Sparrow
- White-crowned Sparrow
- Yellow-rumped Warbler