Cave Creek Recreation Area, March 23, 2001.
With the arrival of hot (near 90°F) and dry weather in the lower deserts, the
outstanding 2001 wildflower season will be rapidly drawing to a close. Today, we
observed a wide variety of flowers, most at or past their peak. Yellow brittlebrush
still dominated the hillsides, though long past their peak. The ranks of the
Mexican gold poppy fields have thinned considerably.
The blue and purple flowers now predominate.
Here is a rundown of what we observed on the Go-John Trail:
- Yellows. The brittlebrush and gold poppies were
still very showy though well past their peak. There were also a few scattered
goldenweeds (daisy-like but yellow petals) and some goldensel.
- Oranges. Still huge patches of fiddleneck (tiny
flowers on a tall crooked stem) in the low lying areas. Occasional desert
globemallows on the trail; quite a few on the park entrance road.
- Whites. The desert chicory was at its peak
with small clusters everywhere. Many blackfoot daisies on the north facing
slopes. One hillside was exceptionally showy with these flowers. Numerous
patches of the tiny woolly daisy (1/2" flower head).
- Reds. Occasional small chuparosa bushes in bloom.
Some of the ocotillo showed red tips - both the flowers and fruit are bright red.
- Blues. Still lots of lupine patches though they are
drying out. The bushy lupine tends to grow late in the poppy fields and crowd out
the poppies. Very showy patches of blue phacelia in many places. One small patch
of exquisite larkspur on a north facing slope. Larkspur are deep royal blue and
cluster along a two to three foot stem.
- Purple/Lavender. Many beautiful stands of scorpionweed,
related to phacelia but a deep purple color. Huge fields of desert hyacinth in the
low-lying fields on the north side of the mountain. Plenty of filaree still on the
north slopes. Most beautiful were the numerous small carpets of owl clover. This
flower features bright reddish purple petals. When the plant is fully blossomed,
its bright gold pistils peek out from the petals making a gorgeous contrast.
Seven Springs Recreation Area - Bronco Canyon, March 21, 2001.
Bronco Canyon is a higher elevation canyon offering a transitional environment
dominated by pinyon pine and juniper trees, scrub oak, and chaparral. We observed
a wide variety of wildflowers. The dense vegetation kept the flowering scattered.
However the higher slopes with sparser vegetation had excellent poppy fields
in some areas. The ubiquitous filaree occasionally
carpeted hillsides as well. Sightings included Indian paintbrush (red), locoweed
(purple), pincushion (white), anemone (pinkish white) plus quite a few
I couldn't identify. A very remote area, we saw no other hikers all day.
Seven Springs Recreation Area, March 16, 2001.
The culmination of a great wildflower season; a wide variety of flowers were
at their peak, particularly the blue and purple flowers.
The spectacular poppy fields which we first observed on February 27th and which
were battered by the rain on March 8th were all perked up again today, perhaps
just slightly past their peak. However they now sported a different look, sharing
their space with peaking blue lupine as shown above.
Showy white desert chicory also mixed in (again, photo above).
Less photogenic mixers included blue phacelia, chia (dark blue),
filaree (lavender), and white desert popcorn.
Many of the blue flowers had their own clusters on the hillsides, making beautiful
though less photogenic displays. (The bluish colors tend to get lost in the green
leaves or the ground.) Some of the other species observed included: anemone
(pinkish white), daisies, paintbrush (red), chuparosa (red), golden smoke,
desert verbena (lavender), and fiddleneck (orange) in the riparian area.
Plus a host of others I couldn't identify.
Usery Mountain Recreation Area, March 13, 2001.
We found excellent displays of many kinds of wildflowers on the Pass Mountain Trail
(which is actually mostly in the Tonto National Forest). The area is upland desert
northeast of Mesa, Arizona, in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. Featuring
a wide variety of cacti and other desert greenery, the area is very lush and scenic.
The most showy displays were again brittlebrush (yellow)
and Mexican gold poppies though both were past their prime.
The various blue flowers were at their prime especially the blue phacelia
which mixed beautifully with the poppies.
Much of Pass Mountain's steep upper slopes were carpeted in poppy fields. The trail
passed high on the mountain's eastern flank, providing closeup views of carpeted
poppies. The moister northern slope teemed with blooming fiddleneck (orange)
which like washes and moist areas.
The scenic views, the wide variety of colors, the humming of the bees, and the pungent aroma of
blooming plants made Usery Mountain one of the year's best experiences.
Seven Springs Rec Area, March 8, 2001.
The spectacular poppy fields we observed on February 27th
were terribly battered by the heavy rains of March 6-7. This is unfortunate
because the fields still looked fresh with many buds and new flowers about to open.
Hopefully, they'll bounce back when the area dries out. The blue flowers, especially
the lupine were more profuse than the last visit.
Cave Creek was still very high following the storm, and we had two difficult
stream crossings. Henceforth, we hunt for wildflowers during nice, dry conditions only!
Cave Creek Recreation Area, March 6, 2001.
The biggest change since our last visit on February 18th is the profusion
of blue flowers. The gold poppies are still
the most carpeted and showy display but are starting to dry out in some spots.
The brittlebush (yellow) is also past its peak.
There are excellent stands of lupine (blue), filaree (lavender),
scorpionweed (dark purple), and phacelia (blue). Also, as shown right,
some very pretty stands of owl clover (bright purple).
Quite a few desert hyacinth (lavender) in the low
lying areas. (At left, a desert tortoise.)
The fiddleneck was at its peak and quite dense in
several places. Its tiny bright orange flowers were very attractive.
Plus, clusters of white desert chicory.
New varieties observed and identified for the first time this season:
- Blackfoot Daisy. A showy flower (1 1/2") with white
petals and an orange center.
- Scorpionweed. A relative of the phacelia but has
very vivid dark purple flowers.
Phoenix Mountain Reserve, March 1, 2001.
After two more days of rain the desert continues to be very green. The low lying
areas are overrun with fiddleneck (tiny orange flowers).
Some good Mexican poppy displays on the Quartz Ridge trail.
More blue flowers around, including lupine, filaree, and blue phacelia.
Only the brittlebush (yellow) is past its peak. (See list near bottom for definitions.)
New variety observed and identified for the first time this season:
- Desert Hyacinth. A cluster of lavender
flowers on a long thick stalk up to 2 feet high.
Seven Springs Recreation Area, February 27, 2001.
The culmination of this wildflower season was found in Cave Creek Canyon,
part of Seven Springs Recreation Area, about 40 miles northeast of Phoenix.
This thousand foot canyon was superbly carpeted with gold poppies on its north
slope about three miles downstream from the campground. Ideal conditions made for
the dense stands, the deep orange colorations, and the large size of the flowers.
We saw some specimens that were about three inches across (one and a half inches is normal)!
Though hard to photo, beautiful blue lupine often
mixed with the poppies (above, left). Most common after the poppies were the stands of
filaree. These small lavender flowers
are not easy to photograph (above, right) but lovely to observe. Smaller stands
of numerous other varieties were also observed.
The wildflower display in Cave Creek Canyon vastly exceeded any of the
other places we've visited this season and is the best we've seen since
the "Once-in-a-Century" year at Organ Pipe in 1979.
Some new varieties observed and identified for the first time this season:
- Indian Paintbrush. The leaves below the
flowers turn bright red giving the impression of many red flowers on a stalk.
Generally seen at higher elevations.
- Chia. Tiny blue flowers from a round seed ball
that sort of looks like a thistle. Actually the plant is in the mint family.
- Milkvetch (Locoweed). Small purple flower. Observed
on the scrub and chaparral slopes near the campground.
2001 Spring Wildflower Report for Southern Arizona, Part 2