Early Spring Wildflowers Bloom!

March 12, 2010

By Rick Hartigan

Photos by Roni Ziemba

Standing on the bank of Jojoba Wash at Tanque Verde Wash, I look to the southeast at a sight I never get tired of; the mature stand of saguaro cactus at the base of the Rincon Mountains. But now it is special. Spring is coming, and the winter rains have been generous.

Dry most of the year, the wash babbles with the run-off of the recent rains and snow melt from the slopes of Mica Mountain and Tanque Verde Peak. Those of us that live here know what a special treat a flowing wash is. Dry so much of the year, the wash now carries the water that will feed the wildflower display in the weeks to come.

The Catalina Mountains to the north and the Rincon Mountains to the east wear a cumulous hat this morning, shielding their snowfields from the sun, and our sight for the moment. But the flanks of the mountains, exposed to the sun, show the clear definition of their cliffs and spires so easy to see with the sun’s low angle. Young mountains, never touched by glaciers, they stand around us in all their rugged majesty.

Flowers have begun their annual appearance. Tentative at first, as if carefully reconnoitering unfamiliar territory for the legions to follow, a few Fairy Dusters show their pink and white powder puffs.

The first Dalea, or Indigo Bush, tries to hide its diminutive pink blue flower by a nearby Brittle Bush that is raising its buds high above its leaves to burst yellow in the next few weeks. A few early Ocotillo have raised their crimson clusters of trumpets high for the first hummingbirds passing through on their ambitious migration to the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Alaska. Back near the ranch buildings, Blue Dicks and Tackstem have begun to appear. The desert floor is carpeted in green now with the annuals that will present their flowers later. They have waited as seed, hidden among the rocks, for the right conditions for years. Their time is now.


The cactus, true to their schedules, wait for the right moment to produce their flowers. Hedgehog will start the parade with their magenta baskets in late March.  The Saguaro will show its first blossoms in late April and peak in late May to early June. The members of the Opuntia, the Prickly Pear and the Cholla, will add their flowers to the show in April and May. The petit Pincushion will be the last to appear, typically arriving in June, although some do appear early.

The winter rains have promised a good flowering season this year. Today’s weather forecast calls for rain this evening, adding to the promise. We look forward to a superb show of flowers this year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: