October Showers Bring December Flowers 

© Arie Korporaal

© Arie Korporaal

In mid-October monsoonal rain fell in two distinct locations in the Anza-Borrego Desert. One area was the Borrego Badlands. The other was along S-2 between Whale Peak and the Mountain Palm Spring area. Both areas received about 1. 5 inches in one day, and both now have lots of germination of annuals and even some flowering. Botany Society members have recently hiked both of these areas to see what's coming up. 

In the badlands the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendors) leafed out extravagantly. Many desert lilies (Hesperocallis undulata) are also showing their leaves. A couple of them were even in bloom, which is remarkable for December. A few hairy desert-sunflowers (Gerea canescens) have opened up. Most remarkable was the number of barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) with buds and flowers. Emerging annuals include Arizona lupine (Lupinus arizonicus), Thomas' buckwheat (Eriogonum thomasii), and California caltrop (Kallstroemia californica). The caltrop is a monsoonal annual that only comes up in response to summer or early fall rainstorms. Dune evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides) is just starting to bloom. Perhaps the most uncommon plant we saw in bloom was Long-beak streptanthella (Streptanthella longirostris), a dune inhabitant. 

The south end of the park was equally florific. The most frequently seen plant was Brown-eyed primrose (Chylismia claviformis peirsonii) which is blooming by the thousands in June Wash. Devil's Claw (Proboscidea althaeifolia), another monsoonal annual, was abundant in Canyon 41 and Canebrake Canyon. It had both flowers and fruit in early December. Indigo Bushes (Psorothamnus schottiiwere covered with deep blue flowers especially in the late afternoon. A few Orcutt's woody asters (Xylorhiza orcuttii) were seen in June Wash, but not yet in flower. The most unusual and surprising find in this area was a hybrid brittle bush, a cross between Encelia farinosa and Encelia frutescens. At at distance the plant appears to be a normal brittle bush, but closer examination reveals that the leaves and flowers are somewhere between the two parents. Three of these hybrid plants were observed in June Wash.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of plants to see if one goes to the places where rain has fallen. However, the condition of plants changes rapidly with the weather, so don't delay. Get out there and see what's blooming.

Note: Image links are to images on the iNaturalist Web site posted by Don Rideout.