A breathtaking look at Southern California 'super bloom'
Thursday, March 9, 2017, 4:16 - An unusually dense display of wildflowers has brought color and life to Death Valley National Park.
The video featured at the end of this article was captured by hikers on March 8. It shows a spectacular 'super bloom' of California poppies and Ceanothus flowers.
While numerous areas of Southern California are preparing for the super bloom, the largest growth is expected in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Officials are anticipating a "rolling bloom" this year, meaning different areas will come into bloom at different times. The bloom will likely last for several weeks as different areas come into full bloom, says the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association on its website.
Wildflowers bloom every spring in Death Valley, but this year's display is expected to be particularly dense and widespread due to an active storm track throughout winter.
"Deep soaking, gentle rain is essential for a desert floral display," explains the U.S. National Park Service. "To begin, a rainstorm of a half inch or more is needed to wash the protective coating off wildflower seeds and allow them to sprout. For plants to continue growing, rainstorms must come at evenly-spaced intervals throughout the winter and spring."
A relentless stream of Pacific moisture brought torrential rains and epic mountain snowfall to the Pacific coast this winter, bringing an end to an extended period of exceptional drought in California. As of March 9, Death Valley has received 1.29 inches of rain since October. The annual average is about 2 inches, which at times can make it difficult for some plants to survive.
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But rain isn't the only key ingredient in providing the perfect breeding ground for this stunning display. Experts say temperatures also play a vital role.
"Wildflower seeds that sprout with cool winter storms often remain small and low to the ground until the springtime sun starts to warm the soil," say national park experts. "They may not look like they are growing, but below the surface a strong root system is being built. As the temperatures get warmer the well established plants then put on a growth spurt and start to bloom."
Peak blooming periods for Death Valley usually occur mid-February to mid-April along lower elevations on alluvial fans and foothills.
The desert is home to several wildflowers, including: Desert Gold (Geraea canescens), Notch-leaf Phacelia (Phacelia crenulata), Caltha-leaf Phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia), Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes), Gravel Ghost (Atrichoseris platyphylla), Bigelow Monkeyflower (Mimulus bigelovii), Desert Five-spot (Eremalche rotundifolia).
To get more information, the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center offers maps for self-guided wildflower tours and a Wildflower Hotline — 760-767-4684 — that provides daily updates.