Cave Creek Recreation Area, March 26, 2005.
The wildflower season appears to be at its peak in the Cave Creek
area north of Phoenix. We hiked the popular Go-John trail
which passes through a variety of terrains with opportunities to
observe a variety of wildflowers.
The splashiest displays here at Cave Creek were definitely
the brittlebrush. Numerous hilsides were completely covered
in yellow (photo, right). The were numerous excellent stands of
poppy (photo, left) but not the huge fields of four years ago.
Also observed were scattered stands of blue lupine, purple owl clover,
and violet phacelia, and a scattering of many other varieities.
A few hedgehog cacti were also starting to blossom early with their huge
lavender blossoms on display (photo, below left).
Cave Creek Recreation Area is part of the Maricopa County parks system.
Nearby Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area also offers opportunities
to observe wildflowers as well as good hiking and excellent vistas.
Seven Springs Recreation Area is northeast of Cave Creek in the
Tonto National Forest. It offers more remote recreation than
the other parks and was the site of the best wildflower displays four years ago.
Dreamy Draw Park, March 11, 2005.
On a gorgeous Friday evening, the wildflowers were plentiful.
Blue lupine and purple phacelias were plentiful as were
fiddleneck and poppies. The poppies have not filled into a solid field of color yet,
as we observed four years ago. By being there at sunset until dusk, several
unusual photos were obtained. They were taken a short distance from the parking lot
up the Christensen Trail (#100).
Dreamy Draw Park is part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Units of
the preserve are scattered throughout metro Phoenix, and give visitors the feel of being
out in the wilds rather than in the middle of one of America's largest cities.
Phoenix, Arizona, March 5, 2005.
Peach Blossoms (left) are not really wildflowers but they are too pretty
to pass up. Here in the desert, we grow a variety of fruit trees
successfully: Fig, Tangerine, Arizona Sweet Oranges, Pommelo (Pummelo,Pomelo -
an exotic large citrus fruit that is an ancient ancestor of the common grapefruit),
Blood Orange, Kumquats, two kinds of Peaches, Plum, and Apple.
Pichaco Peak State Park, March 4, 2005.
Drove by the park on the way to Tucson. Not very splashy yet.
A little bit of orange starting to show from poppies.
Phoenix Mountains Preserve, March 2, 2005.
Nice poppy fields starting on the hillsides (right and below left) east of Dreamy Draw Park.
These photos were taken on the Perl Charles Memorial Trail (#1a) along
the north facing slopes overlooking trail 100. A little bit of lupine and
phacelia (blue flowers) mixed in. Some of the drier south facing slopes had moderate
displays of brittlebrush. The low-lying areas and washes had quite a bit of
fiddleneck, green stalks 12-18 inches high with tiny bright-orange flowers.
They're difficult to photograph due to the small size.
There are even better displays of poppies on the hillsides right
behind Dreamy Draw Park.
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, March 1, 2005.
Maricops County's newest park, Spur Cross preserves a gorgeous chunk of
desert north of the town of Cave Creek. It features saguaro forests with
wonderful desert mountain backdrops, as well as a pretty riparian area (below) around
Cave Creek which flows most of the time. Due to all of the rain this year, Cave
Creek was more like a little river. We had to remove our boots and cross the creek
in bare feet.
Unfortunately, there was not too much wildflower activity at this time,
at least nothing particularly showy. Quite a bit of fiddleneck and a moderate amount
of brittlebrush. A few other varieties were scattered around but nothing exciting.
The wildflower season seems to be starting rather late this year.
Here are some of the wildflowers common to most of the
desert areas of southern Arizona:
- Poppies. This most spectacular desert wildflower
ranges from yellow to bright gold, about 1 1/2" across. It grows in huge patches
when conditions are right. Most common here is the Mexican Gold Poppy (4 petals).
Less common is the Arizona Poppy (5 petals) which is yellow with a crimson center.
- Brittlebush. A shrub which may be two to three feet
high and wide. During a good spring the brittlebush can be loaded with bright yellow
flowers 1" across. Hillsides can often be colored yellow with blooming brittlebush.
- Filaree. A small (1/2") five-lobed
lavender flower, the filaree offered the most prominent displays following the
poppies and brittlebrush. Its small size and mild color make it difficult to photo.
- Blue Phacelia. A small blue flower which clusters
atop a 6-12 inch stalk, the phacelia mixed most often with the filaree.
- Lupine. The bright blue lupine is one of the most
common and beautiful desert wildflowers. This year the lupine here is scattered rather
than packed tightly together, making them less photogenic.
- Desert Globemallow. There were some nice displays
of this desert shrub with bright orange flowers along the park access road.
- Chuparosa. This desert shrub with bright red
tubular flowers was observed in a couple of places.
- Desert Chicory. This white, multi- petaled
flower, about 1" to 1 1/2" across, was scattered on some hillsides, sometimes
mixing with the poppies.
- Amsinkia (Fiddleneck). A 12" to 18" stalk features bright
orange but tiny (1/4") flowers. Seen often in wash areas.
- Owl Clover. A bright purple, brushy wildflower
(actually many tiny buds on a stalk),
the owl clover was seen in a few scattered areas. It often mixes with lupine.
A hillside carpeted with owl clover is one of the greatest sights of the desert.
Sadly, it is also extremely rare. (See the lead photo in our
Once in a Century... story.)
- Desert Popcorn. Clusters of tiny bright
white flowers generally alongside the trail.
- Twist flower (silverbells). Small white
bell-shaped flowers on a long stem.
- Fairy Duster. A purpleish flower with numerous
hairy stamens, giving it a feathery look hence the name.
- Parry Penstemon (Beardtongue). Clusters of
bright pink bell-shaped flowers on a long flower spike.