Death Valley Super Bloom Springs to Life

It’s Alive! Death Valley, already awash in wildflowers, may see a rare “super bloom” this spring.

It’s Alive! Death Valley, already awash in wildflowers, may see a rare “super bloom” this spring.

Life is taking over Death Valley. This month the hottest place on the planet has been awash in wildflowers, with vivid yellow and purple blooms carpeting reaches of the usually barren landscape. The fecundity is due to the El Nino-linked downpours that dumped 1.23 inches of rain in some parts of Death Valley National Park last October. That might not sound like much, but the area typically gets around 2 inches of rain per year.

And it’s possible we ain’t seen nothing yet: If more rains fall, and a cold snap doesn’t hit, the floral spectacle could blossom into a rare “super bloom” that only occurs every decade or so, says park ranger Alan Van Valkenburg, who has been noting the progress online with Wildflower Updates.

“What is most exciting to me this spring is not necessarily the number of flowers we have blooming early, or the vast number of tiny plants filling in behind them,” he writes. “It is the way some of the plants, that have not yet bloomed or are just beginning to bloom, are super sized.” That includes three-feet-tall Notchleaf Phacelia, which has bouquets of deep purple flowers, and desert five-spot, which tops two feet and has striking flowers with blood-red spots at the base of each of its pinkish petals.

“It’s mind-boggling,” says Van Valkenburg. “Visions of great things to come!”

For daily updates on the wildflower situation, visit Death Valley National Park’s Facebook page.

This post first appeared in OnEarth.

By Alisa Opar

Alisa Opar is Earthwire's Western correspondent. She is also the articles editor at Audubon magazine, and has written for many publications about science and the environment.